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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
Iraq

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.

Blair Testifies; British Intelligence Crisis Continues

Kerry Boyd-Anderson

While the Bush administration faces criticism about its handling of intelligence on Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government has endured a summer of political crisis over the issue. The debate has centered around a dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities the British government released in September 2002. Out of a storm of accusations that has tarnished the reputations of Blair’s government and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), two facts have emerged: there were disagreements over the dossier among intelligence officials, and key Blair aides were involved in reviewing the final drafts of the dossier. The depth of the aides’ involvement and the dissension among intelligence officials, however, remains murky.

The eye of the storm has recently moved before a judge. The Hutton Inquiry, which follows an investigation by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, has heard public testimony into the formation of the dossier by top officials, including Blair.

The Blair government continues to deny that it ever misled parliament or the public in the months before the Iraq war. In August 28 testimony before the Hutton Inquiry, Blair vehemently denied that the government inserted information into the September dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services. If that allegation were true, “it would have merited my resignation,” he said.

Several media reports in May and June helped spark the crisis by suggesting that Blair and his key aides interfered in the process of compiling intelligence on Iraq. In particular, BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan reported May 29 on the radio show “Today” that “one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that [September 2002] dossier” on Iraq’s weapons programs said the government had ordered that the dossier on Iraq “be sexed up, to be made more exciting and ordered more facts to be...discovered.” The source, according to Gilligan, specifically pointed to the inclusion in the dossier and its executive summary of a statement saying that Iraq’s military planning allowed for some weapons of mass destruction “to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.” The source also allegedly accused Alastair Campbell, Blair’s close communications and strategy chief, of inserting the claim.

Gilligan refused to reveal his source, but on June 30, David Kelly, a top expert on biological and chemical weapons and an adviser for the Ministry of Defense, told his manager at the ministry that he had met with Gilligan May 22. The Ministry of Defense informed the Commons committee, and Kelly’s name was subsequently leaked to the press. Kelly gave public testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee July 15 and testified in private to the Intelligence and Security Committee, which has also been investigating the use of intelligence on Iraq.

In his public testimony, Kelly said he did not think he was Gilligan’s main source. Kelly said he did not believe Campbell had transformed the September dossier, stated that he felt the September dossier was true and not embellished, and denied that he was aware whether the 45-minute claim was added to the dossier at the last minute.

From his conversation with Gilligan, Kelly said, “I do not see how he could make the authoritative statement he was making from the comments that I made.” He refused to deny categorically that he was the source, however, saying, “I do realize that in the conversation that I had there was reinforcement of some of the ideas he has put forward.”

The day after his private testimony, Kelly left his home and did not return. On July 18, police found Kelly dead of apparent suicide. On July 20, the BBC stated that Kelly was Gilligan’s main source.

Kelly’s death and the BBC’s identification of him as the main source ignited a firestorm of criticism against both the BBC and Blair. The prime minister appointed Lord Hutton to investigate the circumstances surrounding Kelly’s death. The inquiry, which began August 1, has gone far beyond the simple question of Kelly’s death to examine how the September dossier was drafted and published.

The inquiry has revealed that some intelligence officials were unhappy with aspects of the September dossier. In particular, concerns have arisen that the final language did not reflect the qualifications common in an intelligence document.

In a taped interview between Kelly and BBC reporter Susan Watts on May 30, 2003, Kelly indicated there was an argument between the intelligence services and Blair’s government. He said intelligence officials were possibly concerned about some of the facts that were in the dossier or at least were unhappy with the way the information was expressed.

Kelly, however, also said he did not think the Blair government was “being willfully dishonest” but was simply trying to phrase things so the public would understand. John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which was charged with assembling the dossier, testified at the inquiry that he was responsible for the dossier and that it accurately reflected the intelligence.

Testimony before Lord Hutton has revealed that Campbell and other top aides were very involved in reviewing the final drafts of the dossier. E-mails sent between Blair aides show they were discussing phrasing in the dossier. Campbell denies inserting the claim that the Iraqi military could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported August 24 that an earlier draft had said “[t]he Iraqi military may be able to deploy...” such weapons within 45 minutes and Campbell recommended that the phrase “may be” should read “are.”

Foreign Affairs Committee Findings


In events leading up to Kelly’s death, the Foreign Affairs Committee report released July 7 found the government innocent of a number of accusations regarding misuse of intelligence but was highly critical of two intelligence dossiers on Iraq that the government used as evidence in its bid to win over public opinion.

The report concluded that Campbell was not responsible for including the 45-minutes claim in the September dossier. The committee also exonerated Campbell of exerting any undue pressure on those drafting the dossier, although it did criticize him for chairing a meeting on an intelligence matter. Campbell announced his resignation August 29, saying he had planned to resign since April 7.

In the case of the September dossier, “allegations of politically inspired meddling cannot credibly be established,” the report says. But the committee also complains that British ministers refused committee members access to intelligence papers and personnel, saying that without such access, “we cannot know if it was in any respect faulty or misrepresented.”

The committee report expresses basic confidence that the Joint Intelligence Committee acted responsibly with the intelligence, but it also expresses concern that certain points were overemphasized, such as the 45-minute claim. In addition, the committee indicated that the United Kingdom probably relied too much on U.S. intelligence and on Iraqi exiles.

Beyond the September dossier, serious doubts have been raised about a February dossier focused on Iraqi attempts to deceive the international community. British officials have since admitted that the February dossier used material from a journal article published by an American scholar. The committee harangued the government for plagiarizing the work and called the February dossier “almost wholly counter-productive,” adding that “the February dossier was badly handled and was misrepresented as to its provenance.”

The committee stated that Blair did not intentionally mislead parliament when he referred to the February dossier as “further intelligence,” because he did not necessarily know that the key sections in the report did not come from intelligence sources. The committee also concluded, however, that Blair “inadvertently” misrepresented its status.

 

Disarming Saddam-A Chronology of Iraq and UN Weapons Inspections From 2002-2003

July 2003

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: July 2003

Prior to the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 in November 2002 giving Iraq a “final opportunity” to comply with its disarmament requirements under previous Security Council resolutions. At issue was Iraq’s failure to provide an adequate accounting of its prohibited weapons programs or to convince UN inspectors that its weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed as Baghdad claimed.

UN weapons inspectors worked in Iraq from November 27, 2002 until March 18, 2003. During that time, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) conducted more than 900 inspections at more than 500 sites. The inspectors did not find that Iraq possessed chemical or biological weapons or that it had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Although Iraq was cooperative on what inspectors called “process”—allowing inspectors access to suspected weapons sites, for example—it was only marginally cooperative in answering the questions surrounding its weapons programs. Unable to resolve its differences with Security Council members who favored strengthening and continuing weapons inspections, the United States abandoned the inspections process and initiated the invasion of Iraq on March 19.

Following is a summary of the major events of the decision to pursue, then abandon, UN weapons inspections in Iraq.


Skip to: 2002, 2003


2002

January 29, 2002: In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush labels Iraq a member of an "axis of evil," along with Iran and North Korea. The president's speech is the first of many statements by top U.S. officials on the dangers posed by Iraq. Several of these officials question the ultimate worth of arms inspections and advocate the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the only way to guarantee that Iraq will not develop weapons of mass destruction in the future.

March 7, 2002: Iraqi officials meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix to discuss arms inspections for the first time since 1998. UN officials fail to win the return of inspectors at this meeting or two subsequent ones that occur in May and July.

September 12, 2002: Amid increasing speculation that the United States is preparing to invade Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, Bush delivers a speech to the United Nations calling on the organization to enforce its resolutions on disarming Iraq. Bush strongly implies that if the United Nations does not act, the United States will-a message that U.S. officials make more explicit the following week.

September 16, 2002: Baghdad announces that it will allow arms inspectors to return "without conditions." Iraqi and UN officials meet September 17 to discuss the logistical arrangements for the return of inspectors and announce that final arrangements will be made at a meeting scheduled for the end of the month. The United States contends that there is nothing to talk about and warns that the Iraqis are simply stalling. The Bush administration continues to press the Security Council to approve a new UN resolution calling for Iraq to give weapons inspectors unfettered access and authorizing the use of force if Iraq does not comply.

November 8, 2002: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 1441. The resolution declares that Iraq "remains in material breach" of past resolutions and gives Iraq a "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" set out by Security Council resolutions stretching back to the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It also strengthens UNMOVIC's and the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) powers to conduct inspections throughout Iraq, specifying that Iraq must allow "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access" to "facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect." UN inspectors are given the authority to prohibit the movement of vehicles and aircraft around sites to be inspected and have the right to interview anyone they choose, without Iraqi officials present, in any location they wish. Additionally, the resolution overrides a 1998 memorandum of understanding between Baghdad and UN Secretary-General Annan that had placed special conditions on inspections of presidential sites to which Iraq had previously denied the inspectors access.

The resolution also warns that Iraq will face "serious consequences" if it fails to comply with its disarmament obligations.

November 13, 2002: Iraq accepts Resolution 1441 in a letter to Annan from Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabr.

November 27, 2002: UNMOVIC and IAEA inspections begin.

December 7, 2002: Iraq submits its declaration "of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes" as required by Resolution 1441. The declaration is supposed to provide information about any prohibited weapons activity since UN inspectors left the country in 1998 and resolve outstanding questions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs that had not been answered by 1998.

The resolution requires the declaration to be "currently accurate, full, and complete," but UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors tell the UN Security Council on December 19 that the declaration contains little new information.

December 19, 2002: Following IAEA and UNMOVIC briefings to the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell states that the Iraqi declaration contains a "pattern of systematic…gaps" that constitute "another material breach" of Iraq's disarmament obligations.

2003

February 5, 2003: Powell briefs the Security Council in an effort to persuade members that Iraq is subverting the inspections process. He publicly presents intelligence for the first time to support Washington's claim that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction and interfering with inspections. France, China, and Russia are not persuaded and support continued inspections.

February 24, 2003: The United States, United Kingdom, and Spain co-sponsor a new Security Council resolution saying "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by Resolution 1441."
The same day, Russia and France submit a memorandum stating that military force should be a "last resort" and that force should not yet be used because there is "no evidence" that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. The memorandum also says, however, that "inspections…cannot continue indefinitely. Iraq must disarm." It further adds that Baghdad's cooperation, although improving, is not "yet fully satisfactory."

The memorandum proposes that the inspectors submit a program of work that lists and clearly defines specific disarmament tasks. Such a report is already required under Resolution 1284, which created UNMOVIC in 1999.

The memorandum also suggests "further measures to strengthen inspections," including increasing staff and bolstering technical capabilities. Additionally, it proposes a new timeline mandating regular reporting to the Security Council about inspectors' progress, as well as a progress report to be submitted 120 days after the program of work is adopted.

Neither measure is adopted.

March 7, 2003: UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix tells the Security Council that Iraq's cooperation with the inspectors in providing information about past weapons activities has improved, although Baghdad has not yet complied with its disarmament obligations. UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors had stated during briefings to the Security Council on January 27 and February 14 that Iraq was gradually increasing its cooperation with the United Nations. Yet, both deemed the cooperation insufficient.

The United States, United Kingdom, and Spain co-sponsor another resolution stating that Iraq "will have failed" to comply with Resolution 1441 unless Baghdad cooperates with its disarmament obligations by March 17. The draft resolution implies that the council members would take military action if Iraq failed to meet the deadline.

March 17, 2003: After U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to build support for the new resolution fail, the United States decides not to seek a vote on it-a reversal of Bush's March 6 statement that the United States would push for a Security Council vote on the resolution, regardless of whether it was expected to pass.

Annan announces that UN weapons inspectors will be withdrawn from the country.

Bush announces that Hussein and his sons have 48 hours to leave Iraq or the United States will initiate military action.

March 18, 2003: UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors leave Iraq.

March 19, 2003: The United States commences military action. The United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland provide troops to the U.S.-led invasion.

May 1, 2003: Bush declares an end to "major combat operations." U.S. forces had not discovered any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction since entering the country.

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For Immediate Release: July 11, 2003

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107;
Wade Boese, Research Director, (202) 463-8270 x104

(Washington, D.C.): Intelligence and arms control experts charged Wednesday that the Bush administration exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and derided the UN arms inspections process in order to justify toppling the Iraqi dictator. Appearing at a press conference sponsored by the non-profit, non-partisan Arms Control Association, the speakers said the Bush administration made its case for going to war by misrepresenting intelligence findings, as well as citing discredited information, about the status of Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs and ties to terrorists.

The experts did not dispute that Iraq at one time possessed chemical and biological weapons, pursued nuclear weapons, violated its disarmament commitments, and did not fully cooperate with arms inspectors. Instead, they took issue with the Bush administration's dire description of Iraq as an immediate threat to U.S. and world security that required U.S. military action.

Greg Thielmann, who served as director of the office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research until September 2002, said, "I believe 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 highlighted the administration's characterization of the Iraqi nuclear threat as being the most misleading. "Going down the list of administration deficiencies, or distortions, one has to talk about, first and foremost, the nuclear threat being hyped," he said. In particular, Thielmann said he believed "something was seriously amiss" about President George W. Bush's reference in his State of the Union speech to a report that Iraq was trying to procure uranium from Africa. Thielmann's office had concluded previously that this was "bad information." This assessment was delivered to Secretary of State Colin Powell in March 2002.

But the Bush administration's distorted portrait of the Iraqi threat was not confined to just one wrong allegation. The panelists also discussed other overblown claims by the Bush administration, including its contention that aluminum tubes bought by Iraq were for a nuclear weapons program even though the International Atomic Energy Agency and some analysts in the U.S. government disputed that conclusion.

Thielmann argued that it appeared that senior administration officials had already made up their minds about the U.S. course of action on Iraq and then selectively used intelligence to support preconceived conclusions. "This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude. It's top-down use of intelligence; 'we know the answers, give us the intelligence to support those answers.'"

Gregory Treverton, a former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council, explained that intelligence is not straightforward so "you do get a lot of probablys/may-haves that are susceptible to very different interpretations." In the case of Iraq, he said the question is not the intelligence but "whether the administration improperly characterized that intelligence in making a public case for war in Iraq."

Testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee July 9, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the United States did not go to war with Iraq because of new intelligence but because "we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light, through the prism of our experience of 9/11."

Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, described Rumsfeld's admission as "shocking." Cirincione noted that the Bush administration "repeatedly gave the impression, and in fact said, that they had new evidence."

Cirincione further stated that administration descriptions of U.S. intelligence findings often were at odds with the actual intelligence reports. He said, "The public statements went far beyond the now-unclassified and publicly available intelligence assessments. All the 'could-be' and 'may-have' and 'possibly' were dropped from the public statements, and they became 'is, 'has' and 'definitely.'"

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, added that the Bush administration often skewed the fact the inspectors could not account for previously reported Iraqi weapons as evidence that Baghdad was hiding them. Kimball noted that Hans Blix, the head of the UN arms inspection team in Iraq, warned many times that "one should not equate not accounted-for with existing."

The Bush administration never had much enthusiasm for the inspection process and publicly doubted it could be effective. Cirincione asserted the administration did not want the inspectors to have success. "In order to build their case for war, the administration had to discredit the inspection process," he said.

Thielmann said that the misuse of U.S. intelligence could have serious consequences. "A little flaw in presentation here and a little flaw there and pretty soon you have fostered a fundamentally flawed view of reality, seriously eroding the credibility of the U.S. government in the process," Thielmann cautioned.

Kimball warned that lingering questions about U.S. credibility could undermine efforts to deal with greater proliferation dangers than Iraq, such as North Korea and Iran. He said, "It is going to become harder and harder for the United States to mobilize international action to deal with other threats…unless there is some clarity about how [the Iraq] episode played out and how it can be fixed in the future."

Kimball and Cirincione both pointed out that the lack of dramatic weapons finds in Iraq so far underscores the value of international arms inspections in stymieing the development of militarily significant stockpiles of weapons or major weapons programs.

"It is now fair to say that the U.N. inspection process was working and-if given the time and resources necessary-could have had a good chance of both preventing any ongoing programs; discovering any activities that were underway; ending a good deal of this low-level activity, such as the hiding of critical blueprints and parts recently unearthed in the backyard of an Iraqi scientist who came forward; and preventing the restart of any of these programs as long as [inspections] had been allowed to continue," Cirincione concluded.

A full transcript of the press conference is available at the Arms Control Association's Web site at www.armscontrol.org. In addition, the Association has collected a selection of Bush administration statements on the threat posed by Iraq, which is also available at the Arms Control Association's Web site.

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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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Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: Reassessing the Prewar Assessments

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Arms Control Association
Press Briefing

National Press Club, Murrow Room
529 14th Street, NW
Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, July 9, 2003
1:00 - 2:30 P.M.


Panelists
Greg Thielmann, former director, Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. State Department

Gregory V. Treverton, senior analyst, RAND; former vice chair, National Intelligence Council

Joseph Cirincione, director, Non-Proliferation Project, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Moderator: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

Questions and Answers

Transcript by:
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.


 

KIMBALL: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Daryl Kimball. I'm the executive director of the Arms Control Association. We're an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to effective arms control strategies and education about those issues. I want to welcome you to this afternoon's press conference on the subject of "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: Reassessing the Prewar Assessments." I'm going to make a few opening remarks, introduce the panelists. They will speak each for about 10 minutes or so and then we're going to take your questions. So let me begin by framing this subject, which has gained a good deal of attention. And if you could all keep your cell phones and other things off while we're going here, that would be helpful.

So to frame this, as we know, the stated rationale for President Bush's decision to invade Iraq was based on what he said -- the administration said were intelligence assessments that made it clear that Iraq continued to posses chemical and biological weapons and that it had renewed its nuclear weapons programs. Now, to be sure, Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, it used chemical weapons, and it pursued nuclear weapons in the past. This is not a matter of dispute. We're not here to take issue with that matter, but other issues.

During the 1990s, we should recall, the first group of U.N. inspectors destroyed the bulk of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons and dismantled its nuclear bomb program, but the Iraqi government failed to cooperate fully, leading to the departure of U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998. And for this very reason, the Arms Control Association, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and other pro-arms control, nonproliferation organizations pressed hard for the prompt return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq with expanded capabilities and authority.

Now, clearly, after this latest round of inspections we saw that more time and more cooperation from Iraq was needed to resolve the serious questions about unaccounted for nerve and mustard agents as well as chemical and biological munitions. Nevertheless, as chief weapons inspector Hans Blix warned, one should not equate not-accounted-for with existing. However, numerous administration officials did exactly that. The president and his top advisors told the American people, the Congress, and the international community that the failure of Iraq to account for the destruction of the suspected weapons meant that they must have them. And despite the October 2002 CIA assessment that Saddam Hussein was unlikely to initiate a WMD attack unless provoked, the president insisted that the Iraqi threat was imminent and that a preemptive military invasion was the only way to deal with it. But now, after three months, as we all have seen, the United States and the Pentagon have searched Iraq, have interviewed former weapons scientists in Iraq, but the Pentagon has failed to uncover clear evidence proving the administration's dire prewar claims.

In our view, and in the view of my colleagues here, it is now clear that Iraq was not an immediate threat to the United States that the Bush administration portrayed. We, along with an increasing number of others, believe that the administration made its case for going to war by misrepresenting intelligence findings as well as citing discredited intelligence information. Despite the growing evidence to the contrary, Bush administration officials continue to assert that their prewar intelligence supported their dire assessments and claims and that more time is still needed to find Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, that U.N. inspectors do not have any further role to play in Iraq in dismantling its suspected programs, and that there were other reasons for the United States to go to war in Iraq.

The White House and its allies in Congress are still resisting suggestions for an independent investigation of this matter. They are dismissing skeptics like ourselves as revisionist historians. And now we hear this morning from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that the United States did not invade Iraq because it had new evidence about Iraq's weapons programs, but because the administration saw the existing evidence in a new light because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This approach in our view is, in the very least, disingenuous, irresponsible, and unsustainable. If telling the truth and sticking to the facts is revisionism in the mind's eye of this administration, then we accept that label.

We're here today as experts on intelligence gathering, in analysis and on weapons of mass destruction to help set the record straight, to respond to the administration's failure to take responsibility for its exaggerated claims, and to underscore what we see as the core issues in this debate about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction with respect to the responsible use of intelligence, with respect to the limits of national intelligence in combating weapons of mass destruction threats, and to take another look at the much-overlooked success of the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq over the course of the last decade and over the course of the last few months leading up to the war.

We have with us three people, experts with substantial direct experience on these subjects. First we'll hear from Greg Thielmann, who's sitting here, who was, until September of last year, the director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, more often referred to as INR. He will discuss the Bush administration's misuse of intelligence about Iraq's weapons capabilities from his perspective.

Next we'll hear from Gregory V. Treverton, who is now a senior analyst at RAND and former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council, on why U.S. intelligence alone cannot support the administration's policy of preventive or pre-emptive military action to deal with WMD threats.

And finally we'll hear from Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment, who will set the record straight, or will try to, on the performance of U.N. arms inspectors in Iraq compared to that of U.S. forces following the fall of Baghdad a couple of months ago.

And as I said, following their opening remarks we'll take your questions. Thank you. And, Greg, the podium is all yours.

Thielmann: Thank you, Daryl. I come before you today as a recently retired U.S. Foreign Service officer with firsthand managerial experience in the use of intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. I always use that expression in quotation marks.

In the latter part of my 25-year career I served two tours in the State Department's intelligence bureau, INR, the last two years as director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation and Military Affairs. This office was responsible for monitoring, reporting on and analyzing all source intelligence on a wide range of political and military subjects for the senior leadership of the State Department.

Now, from my perspective as a former mid-level official in the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of State, I believe 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.

After three months of intensive searches on the ground, no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found. But while the search is not yet over, I am confident in concluding that as of March 2003, when we began military operations, Iraq posed no imminent threat to either its neighbors or to the United States. Its military, exhausted by the long war with Iran, severely depleted by Desert Storm, and hobbled by continuing sanctions, was significantly less capable than it was when Iraq invaded first Iran and then Kuwait.

Its nuclear weapons program, largely dismantled by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s, was dormant. Its chemical and biological weapons programs, while illegal and potentially dangerous, were apparently directed at contingent rapid production capabilities rather than maintaining ready stockpiles. Iraq probably [did not have] ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons payloads to population centers in Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Iran. There was no significant pattern of cooperation between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist operation, which had attacked the United States on 9/11. So the question arises: were these realities understood by the intelligence community? My answer would be, some were. Iraqi conventional military weakness, the status of ongoing missile developments there, the lack of a meaningful connection with al Qaeda, these areas were understood by the intelligence community, and the community's assessments were accurately conveyed to the executive and legislative branches.

There were other issues that were subjects of controversy inside the intelligence community, reflecting inadequate information and the difficulty of uncovering closely-held secrets: whether or not the nuclear weapons program was being reconstituted, for example; whether or not Saddam had retained a small number of extended-range SCUD missiles; whether or not he had chemical or biological weapons available for immediate use. Now, the ambiguity in these assessments was not faithfully conveyed in intelligence community reporting, so how did we in the intelligence community fail to understand the full reality, because some of the characteristics we describe today we would have described a little bit differently before the war.

Sometimes we made honest errors, basing our conclusions on reasonable logic, prudent worst-case assumptions, information from otherwise reliable sources. Sometimes our tradecraft was wanting. Occasionally malfeasance occurred. But I want to be very careful to separate error from wrongdoing, just reminding you that intelligence analysis is a very tricky business. You never have all the information that you want; information is often contradictory. Trying as an analyst to reduce the information to a form that can be digested by non-specialists, or even knowledgeable specialists who have a limited amount of time to absorb it, is a serious challenge. And of course you have to expect occasional mistakes. An organization that is not willing to risk making mistakes is not providing good intelligence analysis and is not doing its job.

And just to give you a little bit of an example of what I mean here, the National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002 contained what I think we would assess today as an error. It said, quote, "Saddam probably has stocked a few hundred metric tons of chemical weapons agents." Well, we may have been wrong, but this was still, I would argue, not an irresponsible call based on Saddam's past behavior. The gaps in Iraqi accounting, the efforts of Iraq to hide elements of his program, and/or knowledge of current production capabilities based on industrial capacity and capabilities all make this not an unreasonable judgment at all.

There were notable deficiencies in the producing and packaging of intelligence community products. I would argue the intelligence community continues to be fixated on the warning function. Warning is part of the job of the intelligence community, but so is prediction and analysis. And to put it in other words, the intelligence community works very hard, sometimes too hard, to warn what could happen. It doesn't really work as hard as I think it should on what is likely to happen or what it would mean if it did happen. This is not a new problem or a new phenomenon in the intelligence community, the tendency, the temptation to stress the improbable and the implausible over the likely. And if you want a case study of this, I would cite my article in Arms Control Today, looking at the Rumsfeld Commission Report on the ballistic missile threat which was issued five years ago today, to this month, a threat with has not at all materialized in the way the Rumsfeld Commission said that it would.

There also have been some misleading public summaries of classified material. One would notice in the October National Intelligence Estimate that there is a fairly equal treatment of the nuclear, biological, chemical and missile categories. I would argue this is really a bureaucratic requirement, which tends to give the reader the wrong impression. If you look again at that nuclear section, there's not much meat there. It's mostly about what Iraq did prior to 1990, very little discussion and detail about what evidence we have, and we'll get into some of the evidence we had later. But there was a misleading impression given, but how can you, when you're making a case-and I'm afraid this was partly a document making a case-you can't just have a couple of sentences saying, and the nuclear program, which was largely dismantled in the 1990s, is still pretty much quiescent.

There is also a problem of cloaking areas of controversy in ambiguity. And to me the classic example of this is the aluminum tubes issue. The 27-page classified summary of the October National Intelligence Estimate, reported to the Congress and to the nation, if anyone was listening, that most analysts said that the intercepted aluminum tubes that Iraq was trying to acquire was for Iraq's nuclear weapons program to make centrifuges that would enrich uranium. And then almost parenthetically it noted that some analysts thought it was not; it was for other purposes. What the estimate meant to say, or to give you some sensitive information so you can break the code in the future, was that the larger agencies, CIA and DIA, supported this interpretation. Smaller agencies, like INR and the Department of Energy (DOE), did not. Well, there is no poll of intelligence analysts on these issues. We can't say "most analysts" and "some analysts." The relevant questions are, which analysts knew the subject, what was their opinion? And on issues like this there is a long and comprehensive and thorough vetting of the cases to be made, the evidence available, and it was somewhat disingenuous not to let the public know that the agencies like DOE, that knew the most about using aluminum for centrifuge enrichments, happened to be in that "some analysts" category.

There were also some inaccurate formulations. The Director of Central Intelligence, in prepared, considered statements to Congress in February of 2003 said, "Iraq retains, in violation of U.N. resolutions, a small number of SCUD missiles that were produced before the Gulf War. This information is based on a solid foundation of intelligence," unquote. This was not what the intelligence community said; the intelligence community said, it probably retains. What it said actually was, "We cannot confirm that all of those over 800 missiles that Iraq obtained have all been destroyed. The vast majority we can confirm that they are destroyed, but there are a few that we cannot yet account for." I would argue that's an important difference, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand how, in a prepared segment to Congress, that very important precision would have become so imprecise.

Now, the principal reason that Americans did not understand the nature of the Iraqi threat, in my view, was the failure of senior administration officials to speak honestly about what the intelligence showed. This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude, its top-down use of intelligence: we know the answers, give us the intelligence to support those answers. When you sense this kind of attitude, I would say, do you squash the spirit of intellectual inquiry and integrity that is absolutely necessary in order for the intelligence community to be well used? You have to suspend your judgments, at least for a little while, to hear what the experts on the subject who are closest to the intelligence think is going on, and that so often was not done. But I would make an important exclusion here because it would be very unfortunate if this were interpreted as a statement that we had this impression in the Department of State. I would say we never had this impression in the Department of State with regard to the secretary and the deputy secretary. We had a very good atmosphere, I think, within the State Department and INR bureaucracy in that we had the impression that what the secretary wanted to hear was our best assessment of what was happening. And I really say that without exception. That was the atmosphere that we worked under in INR, and I'm very grateful for that, especially when I draw some conclusions about how it may have been in other agencies.

Going down the list of administration deficiencies, or distortions, one has to talk about, first and foremost, the nuclear threat being hyped. I've already said I don't think there was a reconstitution or active rejuvenation of the nuclear weapons program. Most of the stories here are familiar to you: the uranium from Niger story, the aluminum tube story. But I would just remind you that much of the critical assessment of this occurred months before it became known to the public. And on both of these things, in the case of Niger, at least from the State Department's perspective, INR's perspective, this was a bad report; it wasn't worth wasting any more time on. In the case of the aluminum tubes, there was a genuine controversy, and yet that genuine controversy was not honestly described when you had senior administration officials talking about it. Condoleezza Rice said the aluminum could only really be used for centrifuges. No one party to the debates would have ever made a statement like that. U.S. news quoted an administration official saying, "What turnip truck do you think we fell off of? There's no doubt about whether the aluminum tubes could be used for gas centrifuges" - an unnamed administration official. Well, there were doubts about it. There were doubts that increased over time and there were doubts by serious people who had serious knowledge of the issue.

I won't elaborate on the inflation of the al Qaeda/Saddam connection except to say it's extremely unfortunate, I think it's obvious, that it occurred.

I would mention just briefly that there was another kind of distortion, and that is the absence of honest intellectual discussion about the other threats existing in the world concurrently with the Iraqi threat. Where was the discussion of comparison with the threat posed by either Iran or North Korea? I mean, they were, after all, all part of the "axis of evil," but in those days leading up to the October National Intelligence Estimate and a vote on the war resolution, we didn't know that North Korea had just told us they were proceeding with their nuclear weapons program. We did of course know that Iran had a very active missile development program and was not constrained, unlike Iraq. We knew about the terrorist threat in Afghanistan, the continuing threat there and the much greater ease of al Qaeda operating there than in Iraq, but you heard very little comparison being made about one threat against another threat at a critical decision point for the Congress.

I had earlier tried to differentiate error from malfeasance, but I should also differentiate inconsequential malfeasance from consequential distortion. And I'm afraid I would have to cite some of the examples of the president in looking at some of the most striking examples of distortions that have weighty consequences. When President Bush spoke to the nation on March 17th, he said, "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" - "leaves no doubt." Obviously what he was probably referring to was the continued Iraqi interest in chemical and biological weapons. He assumed that there was a possession of these weapons. It was not a known fact within the intelligence community. The most lethal weapons ever devised? Well, ladies and gentlemen, nuclear weapons are the most lethal weapons ever devised. Iraq had no nuclear weapons and it had a program that was not being actively rejuvenated. I think you could even argue that a B-29 with an incendiary bomb, or a fleet of them, is a much more lethal weapon than the biological and chemical weapons programs of Iraq.

Then there's the connection to al Qaeda, and just to give you a flavor - remind you of what President Bush said, "Terror cells and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass destruction are different faces of the same evil." The president said, "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein." And then, in his end-of-combat-operations speech on the carrier, Abraham Lincoln, he said, "The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of al Qaeda." Saddam and Osama allies; different faces of the same evil. This is not according to most of the experts on terrorism and the Middle East that I talked to. I didn't take a poll, I admit, but since I couldn't find any experts who had this point of view, I feel confident in saying this.

I'll just conclude by noting that Congressman Tom DeLay was quoted in today's paper defending the president's approach, noting it's very easy to pick one little flaw here and one little flaw there. Well, my response is, a little flaw in presentation here and a little flaw there and pretty soon you have fostered a fundamentally flawed view of reality, seriously eroding the credibility of the U.S. government in the process.

Kimball: Thank you, Greg. (Applause.) We'll now hear from another Greg, Gregory Treverton.

Treverton: Thanks, Daryl. It's a pleasure to be here, particularly on a panel in which Gregs are appropriately represented. I should make the ritual disclaimer that anything I say should not be attributed to RAND. RAND, as you know, doesn't take stands, and more to the point, anything I said would be disagreed with by at least someone else at RAND. Most of what I'll say in my brief opening remarks really will complement rather than continue what Greg Thielmann said. I can't, however, resist just two quick comments. They're very supportive of what Greg said.

It takes me all to the bureaucratics and theology of doing national intelligence estimates. That's a subject that would keep us here until tomorrow. We won't do that, but I think point one would be if you look at the public documents, the public release of the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, and its companion piece by the British, the Joint Intelligence Committee, last fall, those stand pretty well on their merits as solid, careful pieces of intelligence in an area that is politically loaded, as we know, and where there's too little evidence.

Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence [Stephen] Cambone recently said-he got it exactly right- "Intelligence is not evidence. It's a piece of a mosaic on which you base policy." The difficulty is, at least from my perspective, that the administration, for understandable reasons, mostly of public presentation, did turn intelligence into evidence, or seek to, in making the best bumper-sticker, quickly apprehendable case for moving into Iraq that it could.

Let me then turn to what is my complementary subject. It's the subject of my remarks, and as well my piece in Arms Control Today. There the central argument is that Mr. Bush has begun to articulate a quite stunning doctrine. It's not yet codified as a doctrine, and it's always dangerous to do so in Washington, but one that is anticipatory, preemptive and unilateral if need be. There's a lot to be said for that doctrine, but the point is-from my perspective-for all its technical wizardry, the U.S. intelligence community still lacks the ability to locate, target and take out some opponents' weapons of mass destruction capability with any precision. Still, and for the foreseeable future, taking out a foe's WMD means, as it did in Iraq, taking out the foe.

Let me embellish that with just a couple quick points. First, the record of intelligence in the war against Iraq I think is a quite impressive one, and it ought not to be lost in the controversy we're having now. It was in the context of absolute air supremacy. The United States had layers of sensors, from satellites all the way down to Special Forces and troops on the ground. It managed what is now called multi-int. This is bright, young, computer-savvy analysts, mostly working around the edges of existing organizations rather than through them, working together to try and put signals from different sources, from signals from imagery, from interviews or espionage reports together very quickly to provide support for the war fighters. It was very impressive at making the battlefield transparent for American forces, at reducing American casualties and making it easier to target opponents. The kinds of communications problems both organizational and in terms of civil bandwidth that we had in Desert Storm were much less in evidence. We're very good at getting information together and back to the war fighters.

Second point, though, would be that no matter how impressive that was, it's plain that before the war we weren't anywhere near the capacity to even know about the exact state of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, much less destroy them, much less destroy them preemptively without a major war. As you know, the U.N. weapons inspectors were expelled in 1998, but at least their years provided some baseline of work. And if you ask about the other instant case, North Korea, there too it shows even more graphically how difficult it is to know about, still less locate, still less hit weapons of mass destruction in any selective, surgical or preemptive way.

As you know, since my time in the National Intelligence Council, we've judged that North Korea, probably the best one can do, has one or two nuclear weapons but no idea where they might be; no idea where they might be in the myriad of tunnels that the North Koreans dig. There is also the unhappiness of geography that puts Seoul within easy artillery range of North Korea, so selective preemption is not an option. We look at the history of 1994, the last nuclear crisis. The Clinton administration also talked about, thought about, looked at military options against WMD, including selective ones, and realized that they just didn't exist.

More generally, while what's called ISR in the intelligence community-intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-has gotten very much better. We're in a class by ourselves in the world. It still isn't good enough and won't be good enough to locate a few weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the things that are difficult read like a catalogue of things that would-be proliferators will do to make it hard for us to find them. It's very difficult to locate things that are buried or that are concealed. Those are exactly what you do with your weapons programs of mass destruction. We're making progress at identifying signatures from chemicals or other emanations from facilities, but we're only getting better at that. We're getting a lot better at detecting things that are moving, though that's still difficult when there's lots of clutter on the ground. But typically adversaries would hide not-convenient-enough-to-move weapons of mass destruction. So the point is that as we think about trying to hit others before they hit us, perfectly understandable, we're a long ways from having the intelligence capability to find things with that kind of precision, still less hit them.

Let me make just one concluding point, and that is it seems to me this state of affairs suggests the continuing value of multilateral inspections through the U.N. or other bodies. Are they a panacea? Of course not. Could we verify certain kinds of bans on North Korean programs, even with lots of onsite inspection? Probably not. But if you look, interestingly, at the contrast between Iraq and North Korea, it is instructive. Well, as I said, the inspectors, as you know, were kicked out of Iraq in 1998. They did roam around for seven years and found a lot, destroyed a lot, built at least some baseline for further analysis. In the case of North Korea, by contrast, there was only one inspection by the IAEA, and that's 10 years ago. So we lack the kind of baseline that might permit multilateral efforts to work as closely with national intelligence as circumstances permit, to do much better, not at pinpointing locations for preemption of weapons of mass destruction, but at giving ourselves some sense for what's there and what's not.

Thanks.

(Applause.)

Kimball: Thank you, Greg. Now we'll hear from Joe Cirincione.

Cirincione: Thank you very much, Daryl, and I'd like to thank the Arms Control Association for sponsoring this press conference today. It's an honor to be in the panel with both these fine experts, and I must say Greg Thielmann in particular. I admire your courage and your forthrightness in coming forth and sharing the information that you have accumulated through so many years of dedicated service to our nation.

I'm going to just make a few brief remarks. I'd like to focus my remarks on three essential points, and the first follows from what Greg Treverton had to say, and that's a subject that has been little discussed in the past few months, and it's part of our necessary reassessment, reassessing the effectiveness of the U.N. inspection process and of inspections in general as a tool for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

In light of the past three months of fruitless searches by U.S., British, and Australian experts, the UNMOVIC inspection process in Iraq now looks much better than critics at the time claimed. It appears that the inspection process was working, and if it had been given enough time and enough resources, could have continued to work and effectively stymied and prevented any new Iraqi efforts on weapons of mass destruction. Never have so few been criticized by so many with so little justification.

Second, the three months of U.N. inspections and the three months of U.S. searches now make it increasingly clear that the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and the missile programs did not exist on the scale that the administration claimed before the war. We can now conclude with a fair degree of confidence that a large number of the claims made by senior officials before the war was simply not true. We can judge that others are unlikely to be proven true, and reserve judgment on others pending developments over the next few months.

Three, it appears that Iraq may have continued programs of research on some weapons, trying to keep intact elements for restarting weapons programs after international inspections or sanctions had ended, but there were not programs involving the large-scale production of ready-to-use chemical or biological weapons or missile systems, nor the prospect that Iraq would soon have a nuclear weapon.

Let me fill in some more details on the inspection process. Before the war, U.N. inspectors from UNMOVIC and from the IAEA visited over 600 suspect sites in Iraq, including 44 sites never previously inspected. They discovered several items in violation of the prohibitions imposed by the U.N. resolutions and supervised the destruction of 72 al Samoud missiles, which exceeded the allowed 150-kilometer flight-range by some 30 kilometers, as well as related prohibited missile launchers, missile engines, and casting chambers for missile parts. They also discovered and destroyed fuel spray tanks and 122-millimeter rocket warheads that could have been used to deliver chemical or biological warfare agents. These were all violations of U.N. resolutions, but they were in the process of being discovered and corrected.

At the time, their work was heavily criticized and even mocked by administration officials and pro-war advocates in the media and many research institutes. Now, with the benefit of these three months of searches by thousands of U.S., British and Australian troops and imported experts, we can conclude that in fact the U.N. inspections were working remarkably well. As the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons reported this week, these U.S., British and Australian troops have now visited over 230 suspected sites but have uncovered, quote, "little evidence of proscribed weapons and materials." This is just an official finding of the obvious. They have scoured all the sites specifically mentioned in pre-war claims as having expanded their production facilities or believed by the administration to be engaged in large-scale production of chemical or biological warfare agents.

They have not found any evidence of any prohibited activities at any of these sites, nor have the troops found any evidence of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, which formed a central and very dramatic part of Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony before the United Nations in February. Nor have they found any evidence of the dozens or more Scud missiles, which were said to exist. In his U.N. testimony, Secretary Powell cited very specific intelligence of Iraqi movements of Scud and Scud warheads filled with biological and chemical warfare agents from Baghdad into western Iraq. It made the U.N. inspectors look like fools. But they were not fools; they had not missed these Scuds. These Scuds did not and do not exist. No sign of these missiles or warheads have been found.

It is now fair to say that the U.N. inspection process was working, and if given the time and resources necessary, could have had a good chance of both preventing any ongoing programs, discovering any activities that were underway, and ending a good deal of this low-level activity, such as the hiding of critical blueprints and parts recently unearthed in the backyard of an Iraqi scientist who came forward, and preventing the restart of any of these programs as long as the UNMOVIC plan had been allowed to continue. Remember, the inspectors were never going to leave Iraq. This was an onsite monitoring and verification regime. There would never be a time when Saddam would be allowed to roam free to restart these programs without inspectors looking over his shoulders and being able to discover it.

Let me just say a word on the threat assessments. I've only got four more minutes. It's clear by now, as you go and you look back at what happened with the threat assessment process, that the assessments and warnings from the administration followed a bell curve. From 1998 to 2001 they followed a fairly low-level of concern about Iraqi programs. It then rose dramatically in 2002, peaking in warnings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program in 2003 at the start of the war, and then declined in the weeks and months after the war to lowered expectations about the size of the arsenals and apparently little concern about the use or transfer of these weapons or capabilities. How little concern the administration now has about these programs is how little planning went into guarding and seizing the nuclear facilities and how little concern there apparently is about the transfer or sale of any weapons of mass destruction that they apparently still believe may exist in Iraq.

In many cases during this period, as Greg has pointed out, the public statements went beyond the consensus intelligence estimates at the time. At the Carnegie Endowment we have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks scrubbing these assessments, and two things are clear. One is that the public statements went far beyond the now-unclassified and publicly available intelligence assessments. All the "could-be" and "may-have" and "possibly" were dropped from the public statements, and they became "is," "has" and "definitely." So the administration officials repeatedly went beyond the existing intelligence assessments, and in some of these cases this included the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who should have known better.

But a second process was underway, and that's the transformation of the assessments themselves. When we went back and looked at the intelligence assessments on Iraqi programs-and you can all do this; you can just go to the CIA website, cia.gov, and look at reports and look on the unclassified portions of the biannual intelligence assessments provided by the intelligence agencies to the Congress, reporting on the "Activities of Foreign Governments in Regards to Weapons of Mass Destruction;" long title, short reports. You can go there or just go to our website, proliferationnews.org, and click on "threat assessments" and we'll give them there for you.

We've done an assessment of this, which we posted on proliferationnews.org called "Follow the Assessments." And what it details is this: from 1998 to 2001, the consensus of the intelligence agency was that most of Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range missile capability had been destroyed by and during the 1991 Gulf War and that U.N. inspections and subsequent military actions destroyed the rest. Two, there was not hard evidence-not hard evidence-that any chemical or biological weapons remained in Iraq, but there were some concerns about renewed production. Three, as Iraq rebuilt some of the equipment for civilian use, it could also be used to manufacture chemical or biological weapons. And, four, an inspections regime was necessary to determine the status of these programs.

What happened in 2002 was that these assessments dramatically changed, but not because of new evidence. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said today in testimony before the Congress, quote, "The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light, through the prism of our experience of 9/11." Well, this is a shocking statement. If Secretary Rumsfeld had made this statement a year ago or six month ago, there would have been a very different debate about the war. The administration officials repeatedly gave the impression, and in fact said, that they had new evidence. They repeatedly cited very specific instances where there were weapons: we know without a doubt, we know with great certainty. Donald Rumsfeld himself said, we know they're here, here, and here. Well; that has got to be new evidence because it sure wasn't in the CIA reports. There was no hard evidence, the intelligence agency said, of any of these weapons existing. We had to have an inspection regime to find out if these weapons were actually there. That reference to the inspection regime was also dropped in 2002.

Here's how I think you can best understand this, and I'll conclude with this. Lacking any hard evidence on Iraqi programs, government officials seem to have developed an outline of a threat picture and then accumulated bits and pieces of information that filled in that picture. As National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice explained to George Stephanopoulos on June 8th, the White House did not have one single assessment but rather formed a, quote, "judgment." The judgment was, quote, "not about a data point here or a data point there, but about what Saddam Hussein was doing, that he had weapons of mass destruction. That was the judgment." Close quote. This, she said, was a picture that they developed when they, quote, "connected a lot of dots from multiple sources."

Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said of a similar methodology in the United Kingdom, quote, "I think it would be fair to say that there was a selection of evidence to support a conclusion. I fear we got into a position in which the intelligence was not being used to shape and inform policy but to shape policy that was already settled." I agree with Secretary Cook. I believe (audio break, tape change). How can we depend on the intelligence assessments unless we know and have confidence that the intelligence assessment process is not being politicized by whichever party happens to hold the White House at any given time. Thank you very much.

Kimball: Thank you very much, Joe and Greg and Greg. We will now move to questions. If you could please state your name, I'm going to briefly restate your question so that it can be recorded. We will start with reporters. Barry Schweid, please.

Q: (Off mike.)

KIMBALL: Thanks, Barry. Why didn't people walk out over this? Greg?

THIELMANN: Well, it's no secret the U.S. has a different culture than Britain does. I mean, in Britain, people resign in protest; in America, people don't resign in protest. So it's partly a cultural issue. There are whole books written on this, "Resignation in Protest" is one that comes to mind; I have read it. (Chuckles.)

I would remind you that three Foreign Service officers resigned over the handling of the Iraq war. I don't think it got very much press attention. I have told people that the metaphor that comes to mind for me is canaries in a cage-the way that miners used to take canaries in a cage to find out whether there was poisonous gas in the air because the canaries would die first. And my rule of thumb is whenever you see a cluster of U.S. Foreign Service officers resigning, you better take a deep breath and check and see what kind of policy you have. It happened in Kosovo, it happened again in Iraq, but no one paid much attention.

It's not career enhancing to resign. That's the easiest answer. Loyalty is so valued. Resigning in protest is so valued that you're basically burning a bridge you will never re-cross. There are a few exceptions. So that's mainly my answer. The culture of the foreign service is that you try to serve honorably one president after another, you try to do the best job you can, you try to minimize the times when you're put in a situation when your conscience finds it intolerable-and there are ways to do that-and then you try to limit damage.

And I would argue that you could even find examples in the testimony of Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council in February of him limiting damage to his own integrity and to the credibility of the U.S. He did not mention the Niger story; little-noticed at the time, I don't know why not. It was only eight days earlier the president had cited that as one of the only two pieces of evidence he wanted to talk about on the reconstitution. No one pointed out this non-barking dog at the time. Colin Powell -

[NOTE: ALL QUESTIONS WERE OFF MIKE. THE TEXT OF QUESTIONS THROUGH OUT THE REMAINDER OF THE TRANSCRIPT ARE PARAPHRASED BASED ON ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION NOTES OF THE CONFERENCE.]

Q: What about Secretary's Powell's inclusion of the disputed aluminum tubes in his UN presentation?

THIELMANN: Well, he certainly knew what we thought of it. The IAEA had come out with a tentative conclusion that it was used for artillery rockets and not for a nuclear weapons program. So that was one example, but also in the way that he talked about the aluminum tubes. I noted how the administration previously said they can only be used for centrifuges. He said: "they can be adapted for." Well, that's a big difference; and so it's less of a distortion, less of a deception than others have used. That's what people do, trying to serve the president and serve the truth.

Q: Was the intelligence put to the president in simpler terms so it could be more easily understood?

THIELMANN: I'm not the best source on that because I didn't do the presenting. The CIA has to talk to that. They're the ones that met the president every day. They presented him information that was not even cleared with the heads of other U.S. intelligence agencies, so we were operating in the dark about what the president was being told on a lot of these issues. They would have to describe that. I think part of the answer is obvious.

KIMBALL: Other questions? John?

Q: Were intelligence analysts worried about how worst-case estimations might be used to justify going to war?

KIMBALL: That's to Greg Thielmann.

THIELMANN: And I think that Greg Treverton would be able to address that also because the different functions of the intelligence community assessments are what you're alluding to there. There are some different functions, and we really have to do it all, really. But you are identifying a very important point, and whenever a nation is getting ready to go to war, one of the things you want to make sure that you do-and this is especially the case of the Defense Intelligence Agency-is to use prudent worst-case analysis. You do not want to be surprised by underestimating an enemy, and you're much less concerned in those circumstances and our military should be less concerned than the dangers of overestimating, in terms of having too many horses on the ground.

Other intelligence entities like INR have a somewhat different perspective on it. I mean, the people we serve in the State Department have to use finite diplomatic resources to apply to crises and national security threats; and so, that puts a premium on identifying what is likely to happen, not what could happen in the worst circumstances. And so we do have different institutional perspectives here, but ideally I would say that the National Intelligence Council that produces NIEs has to try to serve everyone.

So it's both legitimate and probably a good idea to say: this is what we think is going to happen, but we could be wrong, and if we're wrong it is for the following reasons; and if we're wrong, this could happen, it could be as bad as this. I think both of those things belong there, and it's partly a question of how you package them and present them. And one of my complaints in the past has been that NIEs sometimes, in order to make political points, they frontload implausible theoretical developments and kind of bury in the details. Oh, by the way, we actually think this not going to happen and this is what is really going to happen. That is not doing a service to the Congress, to the other people who use these things, and to the American people.

KIMBALL: Greg Treverton, you want to take a cut at that?

TREVERTON: Just add two quick points. One is that, in a funny sense, we're now having a debate about intelligence when, in fact, it seems to me that it's mostly not about intelligence. As I said earlier, it looks to me, if you read the intelligence out there, Joe may be right; but there was some evolution, perhaps under pressure, over time. But on the whole, it seems the intelligence stands on its own. So the discussion is really not about that, but about whether the administration improperly characterized that intelligence in making a public case for war in Iraq, and maybe whether or not the director of Central Intelligence is included in that set of people that may have improperly characterized the intelligence.

The second point I want to make is that-I know none of us will hold this view-but there is a sort of view out there that policymakers are clean slates and they listen attentively to what intelligence says and act accordingly. There are at least two things wrong with that. One is that the most interesting issues, the difficult questions, begin where the evidence ends, and so you do get lots of probablys/may-haves that are susceptible to very different interpretations.

The more important problem with that is that policymakers aren't blank slates; they come into office with very strong preconceptions, at least on some issues. And this is an administration that, as Paul Wolfowitz was honest to say some months ago, had a lot of reasons for a lot of years to want to take down Saddam Hussein's regime, and in that sense, for it, maybe the weapons of mass destruction issue was only the easiest part of the public presentation. So then if we're saying what's the issue, the issue is did they not make an entirely fair argument with the American people about why it was necessary in their view to take out Saddam.

KIMBALL: We have got lots of hands. Yes, sir? If you could identify yourself, please?

Q: (Off mike.)

KIMBALL: Joe, do you want to reply? I mean, I think there is one thing that might be worth saying with respect to the issue you're bringing up, which is should any of us be surprised that there have been no dramatic weapons finds since the end of the war. I would say, and there are others, including Hans Blix, who are not so surprised. In part, that is because of our view that the weapons inspectors were effectively constraining militarily significant Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs.

Would we be surprised if there is dramatic evidence that shows up or at least even some relatively small direct finds? I personally would not be surprised about that either because, after all, Iraq did have chemical and biological programs and munitions. These could be debris left over from those programs. They could be materials that were, indeed, secreted away before the war. So, I mean, I think those observations are important as we evaluate this, these questions. Joe, do you want to try to take a whack at that?

CIRINCIONE: Well, the first one is easy. No, we have got Iraq and we're not giving it back. I don't think there's any prospect in the near future of withdrawal of U.S. troops. Whatever we thought about the war beforehand, we are in Iraq and we are going to be there for a quite a long time, and it's in everybody's interest to make sure that this occupation goes as smoothly as possible with as few lives lost on all sides as possible. We cannot afford to have Iraq devolve into the kind of chaos that is happening in Afghanistan, that's number one.

Number two, most people in this field believed that there were weapons or weapons program activity going on inside Iraq after inspectors left in 1998. And so, when you hear people citing the fact that many people-Carnegie Endowment, Clinton administration officials-have said there were chemical or probably were chemical or biological weapons or weapons activity in Iraq, that's true. This was never a debate about weapons; it was a debate about war. Did we need to go to war to solve this problem? What we're finding now is, I think, is a surprise to most of us, that there appears to be far less activity going on. There appears now to have been far less activity going on in Iraq than we thought.

I fully still expect to find some chemical weapons, to find some anthrax samples, but it appears that what Saddam did with the chemical and biological and missile programs was pretty much what he did with the nuclear program; contracted it back to core elements, a cadre of scientists and technicians perhaps doing low-level research work; the core elements of it, perhaps some precursors, perhaps some actual chemicals, perhaps some anthrax, but waiting for the time when he could rebuild. In part, this is because he was having significant problems with the pre-1991 programs. So they were waiting to reconstruct these efforts. That is a threat, that is a problem, that is a violation, but it was not an imminent and clear danger to the national security of the United States.

KIMBALL: Yes, sir?

Q: Why are concerns about the war and the lack of WMD findings playing out so much different politically in the United States and Britain?

KIMBALL: Greg Treverton?

TREVERTON: This will be a California perspective, not a Washington perspective. My impression is that it's mostly that the American people have been convinced that the Saddam regime was a very bad thing for lots of reasons for a long, long time, and that why they were focused on mass destruction, because that's where the administration pointed them. On the whole, there was, particularly after 9/11, a general support that says let's take care of bad guys, maybe they're connected to terrorism. You see the polls; lots of Americans believe that there was a link between Iraq and al Qaeda despite the lack of intelligence evidence on that score.

So I think it is that the general climate here after 9/11 and the long experience with Iraq and the perceived unhappy inspections process. Although I much agree with Joe, it was a lot more effective than it looked. But most Americans do, at least so far, give the administration the benefit of the doubt. Getting rid of Saddam was good for lots of reasons, and if there aren't weapons of mass destruction, that's a concern but not the same kind of concern as there is in a parliamentary system like Britain.

It's interesting, as a reader, that the best arguments for the war in Iraq were made by Tony Blair, not by George Bush, because Blair was willing to admit that there were arguments to the contrary, that it was a close call, and that you could have a debate. That makes it, in some sense, interesting, maybe surprising, that he's now being roasted worse for being, in some ways, more open about his argument beforehand.

KIMBALL: If I might just try to address part of that. To me, and it's an interesting question, it's difficult for us to try to understand fully British politics or culture, but I think we can say a few things about the American system. One of which I think is important is that those parties in the United States government who are responsible for keeping the executive branch accountable, for asking the tough questions, are themselves, some of the people who were pushing for this war, who were making some of these dire assessments based on the administration's interpretation of the intelligence information.

And we see, right now, the key congressional committees who would investigate-whose role it is to investigate these types of matters-refusing to pursue the issues. I think that that is highly unfortunate. I think that that is an abdication of responsibility. I won't question or try to address their motivations. I think that might be obvious to some. But I think that this problem points to the need for a new type of independent investigation, perhaps in the form of a commission that does investigate the issues related to this episode, that is not tied to, as many members of Congress are, their votes on the resolution for the war.

So I think the lack of inquiry points, in Congress, points to the need for this kind of independent investigation so that we can understand the truth behind these issues and hold the administration accountable for what it should and what it shouldn't be held accountable for in this case.

KIMBALL: Yes, I'm sorry. Okay.

Q: Are you aware of any intelligence analysts feeling pressure to change their assessments?

THIELMANN: During my time in INR, I'm proud to say that I can't remember any specific examples of an INR intelligence analyst that changed his or her views because of intelligence pressure. That's partly because of the culture that the bureau maintains of being absolutely independent of the other part of the State Department. One of the benefits was that people in the policy bureaus knew that INR would do its analysis independent of whether it was embarrassing or inconvenient for State Department policy.

That we were under pressure sometimes from parts of the State Department policy side is also indisputable. I had already said that I didn't feel that we had any signals from the secretary himself that he wanted anything other than our best shot, but there were others in the Department who we did feel pressure from on a variety of issues.

Q: So you are not aware of any analysts who felt pressure?

THIELMANN: I'm saying you should ask the CIA and DIA; I can only speak for INR.

KIMBALL: Questions from other reporters, please. Yes, sir?

Q: Senator Kennedy has said that North Korea was a bigger threat than Iraq. What is your assessment of where Iraq fell in the threat spectrum?

CIRINCIONE: I have always considered North Korea a much more serious proliferation threat than Iraq was. In fact, well, just quickly, in my view of the world, the most serious proliferation threat we face is from Russia because, like Willie Sutton said about why he robbed banks, that's where the weapons are. You have got 20,000 to 40,000 nuclear weapons in Russia, some of them in very insecure conditions. We have got to lock those up before terrorists get their hands on them. The second-greatest proliferation threat, in my view, is Pakistan. We have a serious problem with Pakistan because what is going on now with transfers of technology and what could happen should that government destabilize.

The third most serious threat is North Korea. These people are building nuclear weapons; they have what Saddam only wanted. Could the president make a case for military action against North Korea? No, there is no good military option with North Korea. Any military strike, including a strike on the Yongbyon reprocessing facility, would likely trigger a peninsula-wide war. This is why the president of South Korea calls any military action very, very dangerous. He is right. This is why the president is trying to pursue a diplomatic strategy; he is right. The problem is the diplomatic strategy has been fairly incoherent at this point because the policy process has broken down between the State Department and the Defense Department. That's a short answer to a very complicated question.

KIMBALL: That's well said, and I think also in North Korea we have to be conscious of the fact that intelligence plays a role in U.S. policy. There have been reports recently about implosion devices that have been faithfully reported by some reporters without much question. This is reminiscent of some of the coverage of Iraq. I think we, again, need to be careful about taking some of these could be and maybe intelligence assessments at face value. Yes, sir?

Q: Were U.S. officials lying to President Bush about Iraq attempts to buy uranium from Africa?

KIMBALL: I think that's a question for Greg Thielmann.

THIELMANN: I agree with the thrust of your question. It certainly requires scrutiny and answers. I have enough experience in how senior officials use information related to intelligence to know that this is not done casually or off-the-cuff. And whatever pressures there are for State Department people speaking publicly on an issue, there is even greater pressure when the president of the United States, in essence, reveals specially-compartmented information, top-secret information, to the world. When he attributes it to a foreign government, this kind of information is the kind of thing that the president's staff would want to be very careful that they were protecting him; that they are not putting him out on a limb. The obvious thing to do is to check and check twice with the intelligence people and say: are you sure about this information, can we really say thing, does this jeopardize voices and methods?

So all of my experience leads me to the conclusion that something was seriously amiss here. There was not only our assessment in INR that this was bad information, but I have the impression-not personal knowledge, but the impression from the press-that this was widely discredited throughout the U.S. government. So it's a very important question, it seems to me, how this got into the president's speech, particularly when the category of weapons that this addresses is the most important issues regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction developments, and this was one of only two specific pieces of information cited to justify it.

KIMBALL: Yes, sir?

Q: Was the case for war with Iraq an intelligence failure or misrepresentation?

THIELMANN: isrepresentation on the part of the administration.

KIMBALL: Okay. Yes, sir?

Q: Two questions. You said the Secretary of State was careful about how he presented intelligence, but what about his assertions about Iraq moving Scuds and Scud warheads around in western Iraq? And, Mr. Treverton, you said your remarks were complementary to Mr. Thielmann's but I read them differently, could you explain?

THIELMANN: On the Scud issue, I'm afraid I'm going to have to defer because I would have to review what the secretary said, when he said it. I think this happened after the time that I was there and I don't know to what he was referring. I just can't answer that question.

KIMBALL: Greg Treverton?

TREVERTON: I'm not sure if Greg and I disagree. What I said was that I thought that the public presentations, the estimate, the JIC paper in the fall were pretty responsible, frank, honest intelligence assessments that said what they were confident of and what they weren't. Greg had mentioned one area in which he thought they had made a kind of honest error, about chemical and biological weapons, but on the whole I thought that they were pretty good and clear about what they knew and what they didn't know with respect to the terrorist connection, the nuclear angle; and the chem/bio was harder, and maybe there they did make what, in retrospect, Greg would characterize as an error. But they looked to me like pretty responsible pieces of intelligence, done in the context of an awful lot of pressure, as we know, implicit or explicit. I thought, in that sense, they held up pretty well.

THIELMANN: One qualification of my own on evaluating this is that one of the flaws in the process I have noticed in the past on National Intelligence Estimates is there is a great deal of scrutiny and long coordination sessions on the classified part of estimates. Oftentimes, the public summary of those estimates is seen as an afterthought; and I can cite instances in my own personal experience where INR has been told don't worry about it by the person in the National Intelligence Council doing it, saying we will take care of it.

Well, it's enormously important how you summarize something, in terms of staying faithful even without the details, faithful to what is included in the classified portion of the estimate. My guess is, in this October estimate-and I can't swear to it because I don't have access, now having retired, to the classified part of the estimate-but I bet the classified part of the estimate looks better than the unclassified part, in terms of explaining what we knew, what we did not know, and that I think there was some damage done to the truth in the way it was packaged.

KIMBALL: All right, we will just take a couple more questions, please. Yes, sir?

Q: Rumsfeld said the United States knew where WMD was and was sharing that information with the inspectors. The inspectors never found much. Was this a plan to make the inspectors look bad?

KIMBALL: Joe, do you want to take a shot at that?

CIRINCIONE: I think I follow the question. There is no doubt that in the month or two before the war, administration officials were increasingly specific about their allegations of large weapons stockpiles, citing 100 (tons) to 500 tons of chemical agents, enough biological agent to kill millions, a dozen or more Scud missiles; and Secretary Rumsfeld in particular kept naming sites. And the reference you are referring to was in a Sunday news show, he says: we know where they are, they are in the area between Baghdad and Tikrit, a little north northwest of that; we know exactly where they are.

Well, we have now been to all the specific sites that were mentioned by officials. Just in the last couple of days at the Carnegie Endowment, we have gone over all the specific references and just checked and double-checked and UN inspectors had been there and now allied troops have been there and there's nothing there. I mean, in many cases, the alleged expansion of production facilities didn't even happen; a shed was built rather than any ongoing new production capability.

And I believe that this was a conscious effort to discredit the inspectors. In order to build their case for war, the administration had to discredit the inspection process. That was the viable alternative to going to war. If the American public came to believe that the inspection process could work, then why needlessly risk hundreds of American lives? Why needlessly risk the potential chaos that we're now seeing in Iraq? Why risk the possibility that terrorism would actually increase by going to war? You wouldn't have to.

So they had to eliminate the viable alternative, and they did that through escalating their specific claims about this imminent danger posed by Saddam's large stockpiles of chemical/biological weapons, kept hammering away on the idea that he could soon have a nuclear weapon, or in some cases went so far as to say that he might actually have one already, and then hammered away at the al Qaeda threat. And that was the key connection: the nuclear threat and the possible operational ties to al Qaeda. As Condoleezza Rice and several other officials all said together on the same Sunday, we don't want the first evidence of a smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. A very effective sound bite; you all picked it up, it played, it clearly implied that Saddam had or soon could have a nuclear weapon and could slip it to a terrorist group, and the inspectors could not possibly stop that.

As we now know, that is not true. He did not have a nuclear weapon. He was not close to having a nuclear weapon. There is no evidence of al Qaeda ties. The inspection process should have been allowed to continue. This war, for all the benefits that it may be bringing to the Iraqi people, was unnecessary from a national security standpoint.

KIMBALL: Yes, sir?

Q: Do you think the American people will support an investigation into these issues?

CIRINCIONE: American public opinion is clearly shifting on this issue, turning against the administration and in favor of congressional investigations. I don't believe it's going to be possible to stop a congressional investigation at this point, and here's the reason why. If everything was going well in Iraq, the American public would continue with their feeling that they had a month ago, two months ago, that it didn't really matter if we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But the euphoria over the quick military victory is fading, both in the public and on Capitol Hill. American soldiers are dying at the rate of one every other day. As the newspaper reports today, there are serious attacks on U.S. forces every day. We have not set up an alternative government. We have not been able to guarantee basic infrastructure for the Iraqi people. They do not yet see any evidence of democracy.

If the chaos in Iraq continues to grow, it is inevitable that the American public will link this to questions of why we got there in the first place. And if the American public begins to conclude that soldiers have died because administration officials have lied, this is going to be an extremely serious problem for this administration. And I believe Republicans and Democrats are recognizing the seriousness of this. The efforts to contain this to just oversight hearings are failing. Investigations, I believe full-fledged investigations, open hearings, subpoenaed witnesses are inevitable in this case. And I expect to see them start off if not by the summer recess then shortly thereafter.

KIMBALL: I would agree with Joe's remarks and also just note another reason why I think the public and other policymakers are going to continue to be interested in looking into this; which is-going back to some of our original remarks and the importance of dealing with weapons of mass destruction as a threat to the United States-the fact that the Bush administration has, in our view, exaggerated the threat assessments of Iraq's weapons capabilities. It is going to become harder and harder for the United States to mobilize international action to deal with other threats in other countries in the future, and the integrity of the United States' effort in that regard, which is paramount, is going to be undermined unless there is some clarity about how this episode played out and how it can be fixed in the future, so that the mistakes that we have outlined are not repeated.

We will take a couple more questions. We're going to conclude. Let me just note, before we take those questions, we do have information in your packets from ACA on several topics. I want to note that the extensive interview with Hans Blix from June 16, published in this month's Arms Control Today, which I think also speaks to many of the issues that are being raised here. And in addition, the Carnegie Endowment has put together an excellent report on kind of a broader post-conflict issues relating to Iraq, and Joe has an excellent article about whether this is going to be a good or a bad precedent for dealing with future proliferation problems. Ma'am, in the front?

Q: (Off mike.)

THIELMANN: Well, I have shared this with other members of the press before. There was really a double reaction. The first reaction I had was I wondered what new intelligence has come in since I left government. And then I realized, particularly after the secretary didn't mention anything about this eight days later, that he must have been talking about that same non-credible report that we dismissed months earlier. And so, it was a combination of surprise and disgust at realizing the gravity of what had happened with it.

KIMBALL: Thank you. Yes, sir?

Q: Does INR have a way of communicating with other intelligence agencies?

KIMBALL: So, in a sound bite, Greg, how does the intelligence community work? (Laughter.)

THIELMANN: Very well. It is exactly as you describe it. We work upwards, supporting the senior leadership of the State Department. But we're also a constituent part of the intelligence community. So INR is on the phone frequently and attending interagency intelligence community meetings frequently on many of these subjects. At the managerial level, it's a little bit less frequently. It's mostly the action officers in the office who maintain daily contacts on all these issues. And unfortunately, on some of the issues we have been talking about, much of my information is secondhand. I would hear from my action officers what the buzz was elsewhere in the intelligence community and arguments they had had with others.

But because we have extensive horizontal interaction with others, I can say with some confidence that anytime there was an issue that we were very skeptical about, other intelligence agencies would know about our skepticism. For one thing, many of the products we produced were available to them, and then the officials that we serve would of course meet with the head of the CIA or other cabinet officers who would be reflecting what their agencies said. So there was quite a bit of intermingling.

It's not stove-piped to the extent that we kept secret from other intelligence community colleagues our assessments on issues. In fact, the way we work, we often wanted to make sure that we understood what all the arguments were that were being advanced by the other agencies before we arrived at our argument. And, doing memoranda for the secretary of state, we wanted to make sure that we can explain to him if our assessment is divergent from that of another agency; we want to be able to describe that.

KIMBALL: Yes, sir?

Q: Some say the real reason behind the war was to scare terrorists or other rogue states. Did it achieve that objective? Are we safer now?

KIMBALL: You're talking about the war on terror? Either of the Gregs, would you like to take a crack at that, please?

TREVERTON: I will tell you the answer with the famous Chinese line about the French Revolution: "too early to tell." I suppose that is the best quick answer. It doesn't seem to ask what didn't happen. One of the things that the intelligence community and others worried about during the war was an upsurge in terrorist activity; on the whole, that didn't happen, so that was a happy circumstance.

My guess is it will take some time for this to play out. It depends on whether the demonstration effect of this kind of American power applied so effectively -- that has got to be a big effect on lots of countries and lots of groups. On the other side, there is the how well the aftermath works. And I think at this point those are the two kind of competing images out there, and it is, in essence, a bit early to tell. Surely, the deterrent effect of this demonstration of American power, that will remain. But if the aftermath makes it look like, boy, they ain't going to do that again, then even that effect will be short-lived.

KIMBALL: Joe, you might want to talk about this, too. I just wanted to comment on the weapons of mass destruction/nonproliferation side. I mean, there is also a point that needs to be made, which is that one of the purposes here the administration articulated was that this action in Iraq might deter/dissuade North Korea and Iran from pursuing chemical/biological/nuclear weapons. The jury is still out on that, but there is some very disturbing evidence that is emerging about the take-home lessons that the leaders in Tehran and Pyongyang are taking from this.

We have seen the North Koreans accelerating their program, not scaling it back. In their public statements, they are citing the aggressive U.S. policies and their fears about invasion. People in Tehran are still trying to decide which direction their nuclear weapons program is going to go in. So I think that we have to consider the effect in these other areas. In my view, the effect so far has been negative, and the Iraq model is a very poor, terrible blueprint for dealing with proliferation in other states that we described before, particularly North Korea and Iran.

(Audio break, tape change.)

CIRINCIONE: Apart from everything we've discussed today, the Iraq War was the first application of this theory that preventive war could be an effective tool against proliferation. As Greg points out, it is still a bit early to tell, but in order to be effective, a preventive war has to both remove the direct threat and dissuade would-be proliferators. Clearly we removed the threat, but I believe that other would-be proliferators have so far drawn the opposite conclusions. Instead of what the administration officials said-that they would increasingly decide that they would not pursue program-Iran and North Korea appear to have decided to speed up their weapons-related efforts. It's unclear what conclusions other countries have drawn yet. We don't know enough about some of the activity in some of these other countries.

On terrorism, the president argued that the day Baghdad fell, terrorism would decline. That clearly hasn't happened. I believe that while there wasn't a large upsurge during the war, there has been major terrorist incidents since the war. It does not appear to have had any effect on al Qaeda operations, and depending on how you judge what the military operations are inside Iraq now, you could argue that these are terrorist operations, and therefore, American soldiers are now the targets in Iraq of increased terrorist activity in a way that U.S. troops were not before the war. So far, I would agree with Daryl it had a negative effect on major U.S. national security concerns on both proliferation and terrorism.

KIMBALL: With that, we're going to conclude. I want to thank you all for being here with the Arms Control Association and our speakers. More information is available through our website and our speakers, I think, will take your questions.

(END)

Description: 
ACA Press Conference

Country Resources:

Intelligence: The Achilles Heel of the Bush Doctrine

Gregory F. Treverton

There is not yet a clearly articulated “Bush doctrine” of national security. Yet the pointers so far, especially the victory in Iraq, suggest the shape of one that is stunning in its ambition. Focused on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the emerging Bush doctrine is anticipatory, pre-emptive, and, if need be, unilateral. Yet the emerging doctrine is bedeviled at its core by legitimacy and capacity, including, critically, the capability of U.S. intelligence. Although the United States has the military power to take out whatever miscreant state it chooses, it still lacks the ability to precisely locate and pre-emptively target WMD, despite all the technical wizardry of its intelligence. Indeed, even determining whether a potential adversary, such as Iraq, is developing and deploying nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons will continue to prove difficult. Taking out a foe’s real or suspected WMD is likely to continue to require taking out the foe.

Parsing the Bush Doctrine

In his 2002 national security strategy, President Bush was explicit about acting first:

We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they can threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends. …To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively.

Or, as he put it more colorfully in his speech to the nation on March 19:

We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.

He had foreshadowed the new strategy in his speech at West Point in June 2002:

By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem; we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it.

In making its case for war, the administration did not point to a specific set of deployments or threats that would have constituted the grounds for “anticipatory self-defense” under international law. Instead, the administration argued that, given its nature, Iraq would pose a threat to international peace if it came to possess WMD—an argument that hinged on the link between the nature of the Iraqi regime and its internal and external behavior. As Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address, “The gravest danger facing America and the world is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.” (Emphasis added.)

In other words, democratic France might be trusted with nuclear weapons, but Saddam Hussein surely could not. He could not be deterred with any certainty. Nor could Saddam be trusted not to transfer weapons to other rogue states or terrorist groups, even though the evidence connecting Saddam to terrorism was weak at best. Thus, he had to be denied access to them. In Bush’s words: “We must work together with other like-minded nations to deny weapons of terror from those seeking to acquire them.”

The Limits to Muscular Pre-emption

Although it is logical to meet the WMD threat now with military force abroad so that first responders at home do not have to, the emerging Bush doctrine of pre-emption or preventive war places stresses on intelligence that it cannot bear. America’s capacity for “ISR”—intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—is unparalleled, truly in a class by itself. It is also improving rapidly. However, its shortcomings actually mirror the techniques used in enemy WMD programs. Existing ISR is not good at detecting objects that are hidden under foliage, buried underground, or concealed in other ways. Nor is it good at precisely locating objects by intercepting their signals. Would-be proliferators can exploit these weaknesses, taking pains to conceal their facilities or change the pattern of activities at weapons sites, as India did before its 1998 explosion of a nuclear weapon.

None of the limitations on U.S. intelligence-gathering capacity will ease dramatically, at least not soon. Progress is most apparent in locating moving objects using satellites and, especially, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—and, soon, expendable optical sensors launched from airplanes—though sorting out such objects from other “traffic” or ground clutter will continue to remain demanding. Predator and Global Hawk UAVs came of age in Iraq.1 They flushed out Iraqi air defenses, targeted missiles, and provided real-time video surveillance of every mission. The armed version of the smaller, lower-flying Predator fired more than a dozen Hellfire missiles, and it was a Predator operated by the CIA that blasted a car in Yemen last fall, killing a suspected al Qaeda operative and five others.

Locating and targeting moving objects better will surely be important at the opening of any war, especially one involving the possible use of WMD. That capability, though, will not greatly help the United States to pre-emptively destroy nascent WMD facilities. Other technical innovations in intelligence will help identify suspicious facilities in the future. Hyperspectral imagery, for instance, can contribute to what is called MASINT (measures and signatures intelligence) by permitting analysts to identify the composition of facilities and their emissions. But such capabilities remain limited today.

Reading the Intelligence Record

Iraq and North Korea point to the limits of the administration’s emerging national security strategy. Months of scouring have yet to produce more than possible husks of proscribed WMD in Iraq, demonstrating the limits of strategic intelligence. The United States’ tactical wartime intelligence was impressive, however. As in Afghanistan, with absolute air supremacy, U.S. intelligence had layers of sensors, from satellites to UAVs to the tactical intelligence aboard warplanes, supporting both advance special operations forces and advancing main force units. John P. Abizaid, whom President Bush has nominated to head U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 25, “Intelligence was the most accurate that I’ve ever seen on the tactical level, probably the best I’ve ever seen on the operational level, and perplexingly incomplete on the strategic level with regard to weapons of mass destruction.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations before the war contained indications of the range of U.S. sources, especially imagery and intercepted communications between Iraqi leaders.2 In intercepted communications, Iraqi officials spoke of concealing “forbidden ammo” and made references to “nerve agents.” Powell showed satellite photographs of buildings, said to be chemical and biological weapons bunkers, with “decontamination trucks” parked outside. Another set of aerial photographs, said to have been taken two days before inspections began in November, showed a convoy of trucks and a crane, which Powell said indicated pre-inspection “housecleaning.”

The latest advance in what used to be called “all source analysis”—that is, putting together indicators from the various intelligence sources, or INTs—and what later was called “fusion” is now “multi-INT.” It involves teams of computer-savvy analysts, using today’s robust communications capabilities, to very quickly put together satellite and aircraft imagery (or IMINT) with intercepted signals (or SIGINT) and any human-source intelligence (or HUMINT), such as defector reports or interviews with recently captured Iraqis.

One intelligence tip on the eve of the war resulted in the attack on Baghdad, which was targeted at Saddam—though that appears to have been a “single-source” tip from an individual. Throughout the war, the communications problems that had hampered U.S. operations in earlier conflicts, including Afghanistan, were much less in evidence. There was much better intelligence coordination between ground and air forces, enabling air strikes against enemy ground forces with fewer casualties to friendly forces.3 In the fog of war, American forces were occasionally surprised and sometimes made mistakes, but U.S. intelligence told them where enemies were and allowed them to target foes with precision weapons to a degree unprecedented in the annals of warfare.

Still, however the debate over prewar intelligence turns out, it was plain that U.S. intelligence was far from good enough to identify, let alone target, specific Iraqi biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons with any precision. Whether Iraq successfully hid evidence of its WMD, moved the weapons on the eve of the invasion, or didn’t have many to begin with, the United States could not locate weapons of mass destruction—before or after the war.

And, in many respects, Iraq was a convenient case if not an easy one. Not only had the United States and its intelligence been working on the country solidly for more than a decade, it also had been Iraq’s ally during Baghdad’s war with Iran. Iraq’s prominence among U.S. national security concerns ensured regular collection of all kinds against Iraqi targets, and U.S. analysis had a constancy and depth during the 1990s that distinguished Iraq from many others. Moreover, while weapons inspectors with the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, left Iraq in 1998, their years of work provided at a baseline for later efforts by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC.

Pre-empting Against North Korea

The North Korea case is a harder one still for the would-be pre-emptor. As one illustration, U.S. intelligence has judged since the mid-1990s that North Korea had enough plutonium to build one or two hidden nuclear weapons.4 But it has had little idea where those weapons, if they exist, might be located in North Korea’s mare’s nest of underground tunnels.

The most recent North Korean crisis also serves as a reminder of how hard it is for intelligence to know of, let alone locate and still less target, incipient WMD programs. Over the summer of 2002, U.S. intelligence concluded that, in addition to its known plutonium facilities, North Korea was operating a covert uranium-enrichment program. The program apparently began in the late 1990s, but U.S. intelligence only confirmed its existence during 2001 by monitoring activities, such as North Korea’s extensive purchases of materials for construction of a gas-centrifuge enrichment facility. The CIA contended in November 2002 that the facility was at least three years from becoming operational, but analysts believed that a completed facility could ultimately produce sufficient fissile material for “two or more nuclear weapons per year.”5

Sheer numbers and warning time compound the problem of taking out North Korea’s WMD. For delivery vehicles, it has an estimated 12,000 artillery tubes and 2,300 multiple rocket launchers that, from their current emplacements, are capable of raining 500,000 shells per hour on U.S. and South Korean troops. Five hundred long-range artillery pieces are able to target Seoul, which is only about 20 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.6

By one estimate, much of North Korea’s forward-based force is protected by over 4,000 underground facilities in the forward area alone, including tunnels under the demilitarized zone that would enable the North Koreans to rapidly insert forces behind the defenders. Warning times for U.S. and South Korean forces would be short—24 hours or less—if North Korea invaded using this forward-leaning posture.

Not surprisingly, recent history is also cautionary about pre-emption. The last major nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula erupted in 1993, when North Korea was caught extracting bomb-making plutonium from spent reactor fuel produced by its 5-megawatt research reactor at Yongbyon. The United States came close to war, and there was much talk in Washington and Seoul about “surgical strikes” against these nuclear facilities. In the end, the Clinton administration took the path of negotiation. Given the proximity of the North and its weaponry, the death toll from war could have run into the hundreds of thousands, with large-scale casualties among the 37,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea. The eventual result was the Agreed Framework of 1994, under which the United States agreed to provide fuel oil and two light-water reactors in return for North Korea suspending its nuclear program.7 The Bush administration, however reluctantly, is likely to be forced down a similar negotiating path when dealing with Pyongyang.

International Inspections

The cases of North Korea and Iraq suggest both the value and the limits of on-site inspections, such as those conducted by UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in buttressing national intelligence. On the down side, no system of international inspection can be foolproof, not least because nations can dismiss the inspectors, as North Korea did with the IAEA late last year. And inspectors will almost always be too few in number and too limited in their ability to conduct surprise inspections anywhere in a country. UNSCOM’s years of inspections in Iraq in the 1990s were a cat-and-mouse game, a constant struggle between Iraq’s restrictions and UNSCOM’s struggle against those restrictions.

Indeed, according to one analyst, it would not be possible to verify a North Korean commitment to freeze or dismantle its uranium program.8 Instead of running 3,000 centrifuges at one site to produce several bombs’ worth of uranium per year, groups of centrifuges could be hidden in some of the country’s thousands of caves. Unlike North Korea’s declared plutonium production facilities, whose locations are known and whose operation can be detected by satellite, much of North Korea’s uranium enrichment program appears to be out of sight at indeterminate underground locations. With centrifuge enrichment technology, there is much less need to centralize production at a single site than is the case for plutonium production, so it is more difficult to determine whether a country has acquired the requisite equipment.

Yet the contrast between the two countries also suggests the value of on-site inspection. There is little baseline data on Pyongyang’s nuclear activities. In contrast, although the UNSCOM inspectors were harassed, they did fan out across Iraq for seven years, from l991 through l998, visiting both declared and undeclared sites. In contrast, IAEA inspectors conducted only one routine inspection of North Korea’s declared nuclear facilities, and that was 10 years ago.

Other circumstances no doubt will circumscribe how closely U.S. intelligence can cooperate with international inspectors, but the experience in Iraq drives home the desirability of doing so when possible.9 As the prospect of war loomed, the earlier sensitivities about information sharing between U.S. intelligence and a UN body, UNMOVIC, diminished. U.S. U-2s, along with other allied aircraft, began flying reconnaissance for UNMOVIC, giving the inspectors much more capacity to see developments at suspected facilities over time.

If the United States contemplates preventive or pre-emptive action, in principle it will want the widest possible international support and authorization for doing so. Yet, as the Iraq example demonstrated, that is precisely what it cannot get. The problem arises not from the fecklessness of the UN but rather from asking nations to take hard, potentially dangerous decisions about dealing with threats that have not yet materialized, and whose imminence is a matter of judgment.

In those circumstances, the United States will want to make the best case it can. Ideally, it will want an “Adlai Stevenson moment,” a moment like that in 1962 when the U.S. ambassador to the UN brandished incontrovertible images of Soviet missile bases in Cuba taken from a U-2 spy plane. Otherwise, even if intelligence is good enough to undertake the military pre-emption, the United States will run the risk of looking like a bully who wants rules to apply to others but not itself.


NOTES

 

 

1. Eric Schmitt, “In the Skies Over Iraq, Silent Observers Become Futuristic Weapons,” The New York Times, April 17, 2003. The various UAV programs are comprehensively surveyed in a new CRS report. See Elizabeth Bone and Christopher Bolkcom, “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress,” (Washington: Congressional Research Service, April 25, 2003).

 

2. Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, “Satellite Images, Communications Intercepts and Defectors’ Briefings,” The Washington Post, February 5, 2003.

 

3. Ronald O’Rourke, Iraq War: Defense Program Implications for Congress, (Washington: Congressional Research Service, June 4, 2003), pp. 59-60.

 

4. See U.S. National Intelligence Council, “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015,” December 2001, at http://www.odci.gov/nic/pubs/other_products/Unclassifiedballisticmissilefinal.htm.

 

5. “CIA Report to the U.S. Congress on North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Potential,” November 19, 2002, as published at http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/dprk/nuke/cia111902.html.

 

6. Willis Stanley, “From Vietnam to the New Triad: U.S. Nuclear Weapons and Korean Security,” March 11, 2003 at http://www.nautilus.org/VietnamFOIA/analyses/StillValid.html#Stanley.

 

7. For background on the framework, see Jonathan D. Pollack, “The United States, North Korea, and the End of the Agreed Framework,” Naval War College Review, Summer 2003.

 

8. Henry Sokolski, “Contending With a Nuclear North Korea,” December 23, 2002, available at http://nautilus.org/fora/security/0228A_Sokolski.html.

 

9. Damian Carrington, “Spy Planes ‘Significant’ Boost to Weapons Inspections,” The New Scientist, February 17, 2003, available at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993399.

 


Gregory F. Treverton is a senior analyst at RAND and associate dean of the RAND Graduate School. He was vice chair of the National Intelligence Council in the first Clinton administration, and his Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information was published in 2001 by Cambridge University Press.

 

 

Rumsfeld Reprise? The Missile Report That Foretold the Iraq Intelligence Controversy

Greg Thielmann

In recent weeks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire for his part in the Bush administration’s misuse of U.S. intelligence to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But Rumsfeld’s tendency to hype selective portions of intelligence that support his policy goals was already familiar to intelligence professionals. They remember his chairmanship of a 1998 congressionally chartered commission charged with evaluating the nature and magnitude of the ballistic missile threat to the United States. As with Iraq, Rumsfeld’s work on ballistic missiles often ignored the carefully considered views of such professionals in favor of highly unlikely worst-case scenarios that posited an imminent threat to the United States and prompted a military, rather than diplomatic, response. Just as is likely to be the case with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD), time has proven Rumsfeld’s predictions dead wrong.

The “Report of the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States,” chaired by Rumsfeld and released in July 1998, was one of the most influential congressionally mandated reports in recent memory. The presentation of the Rumsfeld Commission report and the unexpected attempt by North Korea to launch a satellite one month later combined to create a political tidal wave that ultimately engulfed one of the most successful arms control treaties in history, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The report also led to massive increases in spending on defenses against ICBMs rather than on domestic spending, other defense priorities, or more urgent defenses against short- and medium-range missiles. Because the Rumsfeld report had such a significant impact on U.S. foreign and defense policy, it is worth checking the report’s predictions against current realities.

To do so on the report’s fifth anniversary is particularly appropriate because of the report’s emphasis on how much the missile threat could grow during a five-year period. The report concluded that any nation with a well-developed, Scud-based missile infrastructure would be able to flight-test an ICBM within about five years of deciding to do so. It further asserted that North Korea and Iran were seeking this capability in order to deliver weapons of mass destruction. Yet, since the report’s release, none of the emerging missile states have flight-tested a missile with even half the range of an ICBM. The report that helped kill the ABM Treaty was spectacularly wrong about its principal premise. “Happy Anniversary” greetings are not in order.

The report’s central and most clarion warning is contained in the first paragraph of its unclassified Executive Summary :

The newer ballistic missile-equipped nations [North Korea, Iran, and Iraq]…would be able to inflict major destruction on the U.S. within about five years of a decision to acquire such a capability (10 years in the case of Iraq). During several of those years, the U.S. might not be aware that such a decision had been made.1

The report further states that North Korea and Iran place “a high priority on threatening U.S. territory, and each is even now pursuing advanced ballistic missile capabilities to pose a direct threat to U.S. territory.” Such language created the strong impression that the five-year clocks of North Korea and Iran were already running. Moreover, the estimate of a five-year timeline from the development decision point to the initial ICBM capability was said to apply not just to the three countries that President George W. Bush would later label the “axis of evil,” but to any nation “with a well-developed, Scud-based ballistic missile infrastructure.”

The Rumsfeld Commission strongly implied that movement from single-stage, short-range ballistic missiles to multiple-staged ICBMs is a straight-line, relatively rapid, and predictable progression. This notion is both ahistorical and unrealistic. Missile development programs of even the most advanced industrialized states have advanced in fits and starts, encountering serious programmatic setbacks along the way. Even after the development secrets of long-range missiles have been unlocked by other states, it can take many years to move beyond the rudimentary short-range missiles represented by the Soviet Scud model. Those countries today that seek to build missiles that can deliver a sizeable payload on target to the other side of the globe must still overcome significant technological hurdles. These include, among others, the use of staging, developing, or acquiring sophisticated guidance systems and mastering high stress atmospheric re-entry. Moreover, emerging missile states also have to seek foreign help in an environment where most potential suppliers have pledged to withhold assistance.

The report also warned ominously about the scope, pace, and inscrutability of ballistic missile proliferation and, in a harbinger of Iraq, dismissed the ability of intelligence professionals to monitor developments. “The threat to the U.S.…is broader, more mature and evolving more rapidly than has been reported in estimates and reports by the Intelligence Community.” The report identified a new danger from “alternative ballistic missile launch modes,” such as sea-launched, short-range ballistic missiles and third-country basing schemes. Furthermore, the report concluded that the Intelligence Community could no longer be expected to provide ample warning of threatening developments. “The Intelligence Community’s ability to provide timely and accurate threats of ballistic missile threats to the U.S. is eroding.… The U.S. might have little or no warning before operational deployment.”

Reverent Attention From the Pundits

Such a unanimous conclusion about the future by nine prominent experts (Rumsfeld, Dr. Barry M. Blechman, General Lee Butler, Dr. Richard L. Garwin, Dr. William R. Graham, Dr. William Schneider Jr., General Larry Welch, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, and The Honorable R. James Woolsey) was hard to challenge at the time, particularly after North Korea appeared to underscore their findings with the flight of a three-stage Taepo Dong-1 space launch vehicle on August 31, 1998. Commentators and pundits soberly intoned about the heightened peril. The new missile powers were declared more dangerous than the old. Their strategic ballistic missile potential was said to be emerging rapidly and their governments were presumed to have already taken the decision to develop ICBMs, leaving little time for remedial action. A typical example of the report’s uncritical reception was provided by Brookings Institution President Michael H. Armacost: “[T]he potential ballistic missile threat to the American homeland has increased as missile delivery system technology has proliferated, as noted in the Rumsfeld Commission report.”2 Most relevant to the actionable strategic policy issue of the day, many pundits concluded that the new threat could only be reliably addressed by deploying ballistic missile defenses outside of ABM Treaty limits.

The Intelligence Community Bends

The intelligence community had been judged harshly by elements of Congress for the alleged sanguinity of its past assessments of foreign ballistic missile developments. Yet, an attempt to get a more forward-leaning professional assessment on missiles by appointing a commission chaired by former CIA director Robert Gates did not succeed in fundamentally altering previous intelligence judgments. After passing a new law, which broke with the congressional tradition of naming commission members proportionately between the parties, the Republican majority did succeed in appointing a new commission under Rumsfeld and naming six of its nine members. In an apparent effort to mollify Republican congressional critics, the intelligence community adopted a more alarmist tone in its next full-blown National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the subject in 1999, “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States Through 2015.” This NIE lowered the threshold for identifying a new missile threat. The previous standard of “initial operating capability,” still used by the U.S. military, was discarded in favor of using the first flight test of either a missile or a space launch vehicle as the key milestone. This new milestone was inelegantly dubbed “initial threat availability,” but its exact meaning was elusive. Did it mean, for example, the first fully successful flight test? Would the proliferant state have confidence that the missile would work without a fully successful test or even after only one successful test? Not surprisingly, adoption of the new criterion meant that missile systems under development would now be considered “a threat” significantly earlier than before.

The impact of the definitional change was made dramatically clear in the NIE’s treatment of the August 1998 Taepo Dong-1 launch. The North Korea section of the unclassified summary’s Key Points began by assessing that “North Korea could convert its Taepo Dong-1 space launch vehicle [SLV] into an ICBM that could deliver a light payload…to the United States.” The tone implied that a quasi-ICBM threat already existed. One would have to read deeper into the document to learn that this system failed even to place its small satellite in orbit. If the system were to be converted from an SLV into an ICBM, the North Koreans would also have to learn how to construct a warhead that could be brought back through the atmosphere successfully, undamaged by the considerable heat and vibration of re-entry, and then could be directed to hit its target. These requirements each pose discrete engineering challenges — and mastering them is far from a foregone conclusion for a country that has no long-distance instrumented test range and no long-range missile development experience.

The NIE featured warnings of what “could” happen more prominently than projections of what was “likely to” happen. The result echoed that of the Rumsfeld Commission, heightening concerns about technically possible but wholly implausible scenarios. Thus before presenting what analysts judged were Iraq’s most likely capabilities, the NIE declared that “most analysts believe Iraq could test an ICBM that could deliver a lighter payload to the United States in a few years based on its failed SLV or the Taepo Dong-1,” which could be imported from North Korea. While readily absorbing the alarm inherent in the expression “in a few years,” readers were less likely to note that neither scenario made much sense, nor was anyone predicting that either would happen. A similar argument was advanced with Iran. In neither case did the report explicitly state what analysts well understood: a lighter payload would necessarily be a non-nuclear one and lack significant military impact. Buried toward the end of the report was the clarification that, when it came to larger payloads, analysts were divided between “likely before 2010” to “unlikely before 2015.”

The NIE did a better job than the Rumsfeld Commission of accurately describing the awesome but declining strength of Russian strategic forces and of describing the relative numerical insignificance and qualitative weaknesses of any ICBMs that might emerge from North Korea, Iran, or Iraq. It described the Russian ICBM threat as “considerably more robust and lethal than that posed by China, and orders of magnitude more than the threat posed by other nations.” The Rumsfeld report’s Executive Summary is focused almost exclusively on emerging ballistic missile threats to the United States although the commission was mandated by Congress to assess “existing and emerging” threats. In passing quickly over Russia, the Rumsfeld report’s summary acknowledged that the number of missiles in the inventory was “likely to decline further” but stated that intelligence estimates on Russia were “difficult to make.” According to the NIE, Russian strategic forces would “decrease dramatically.” The commission warned that “the risk of an accident or loss of control over Russian ballistic missile forces…which now appears small…could increase sharply and with little warning.” The NIE judged the chance of an unauthorized or accidental launch as “highly unlikely so long as current technical and procedural safeguards are in place.”

Still, the NIE conformed to the principal Rumsfeld Commission theme that the threat from newer ballistic missile-equipped nations was broader, more mature, and evolving more rapidly than previously reported by the intelligence community. Particularly in its presentational aspects, the NIE repeated the commission’s emphasis on ballistic missile threats from North Korea, Iran, and Iraq over those from Russia and China. The threat from emerging states was emphasized up front in the list of “Key Points” in the unclassified summary and the sections of the main body, relegating the much more potent Russian and Chinese missile arsenals and the dramatic decline of Russian strategic forces to a secondary position. A reader of the NIE’s Key Points learns that the United States will most likely face new ICBM threats from North Korea and Iran by 2015 and that a North Korean Taepo Dong-2 ICBM “could be tested at any time.” But the same reader would have to read between the lines of the Key Points or to perform an exegesis of the discussion section to realize that the net ballistic missile threat to the United States through 2015 was expected to fall by thousands of warheads.

Subsequent intelligence community proclamations and products maintained fealty to the broad thrust of the Rumsfeld Commission report. For example, CIA Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin told a space and missile conference in Huntsville, Alabama, on August 21, 2001, that:

[A] number of countries hostile to the United States are on a path that seems likely to expose America to an increased intercontinental [ballistic missile] threat…Some emerging missile states have already decided to go beyond medium-range weapons and develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.3

The only intelligence entity voicing public dissent on these themes was the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). According to INR Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Tom Fingar, testifying in an open session of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee on February 7, 2001, “INR assesses that, among states seeking long-range missiles, only North Korea could potentially threaten the U.S. homeland with ballistic missiles in this decade, and only if it abandons its current moratorium on long-range missile flight testing.”

What Has Happened

Looking around in the summer of 2003, five years after the Rumsfeld Commission completed its report, one sees a very different world than the one predicted. There have been no ICBM flight tests by any of the newer ballistic missile-equipped nations. As of this writing, North Korea has still not flight-tested its Taepo Dong-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM)/ICBM, an event which the 1999 NIE predicted would probably take place that same year. In fact, none of the ballistic missiles flight-tested by the proliferant states have so far reached the 3,000-kilometer-range floor of the intermediate-range ballistic missile category. The total number of long-range ballistic missiles in the world, meanwhile, has fallen to roughly half of Cold War highs and the number of countries with active long-range programs has also declined. [See Chart 1.]

There is no doubt that ballistic missiles still hold attraction for a number of countries. The Rumsfeld Commission explained that “emerging powers…see ballistic missiles as highly effective deterrent weapons and as an effective means of coercing or intimidating adversaries, including the United States.” But the manifestation of this interest has primarily been seen in the category of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. According to a 2002 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reckoning, 22 of the 35 nations with ballistic missiles have missiles with ranges of 300 kilometers or less; only 11 have missiles with ranges of more than 1,000 kilometers.4 Five of these countries are nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear-weapon states; four more are either friendly or at least not hostile to the United States. The remaining two states, North Korea and Iran, have single-stage, 1,300-kilometer-range missiles—the North Korean Nodong and its Iranian derivative, the Shahab-3. Neither poses an imminent ballistic missile threat to population centers in the United States, thousands of kilometers away. [See Chart 2.]

This analysis does not dispute that the existing ballistic missiles of proliferant states can pose a threat to U.S. forces, interests, or allies, nor does it argue for indifference to ongoing development programs for longer-range missiles. But efforts to develop and deploy defenses against these threats were not limited by the ABM Treaty. The Rumsfeld Commission report was specifically charged with assessing another kind of ballistic missile threat: that posed by strategic ballistic missiles, on which the ABM Treaty did pose limits. The salient policy question was therefore supposed to be whether and how soon a new strategic ballistic missile threat would emerge.

There is a general consensus among U.S. government and academic experts that both North Korea and Iran have development programs for longer-range missiles and for nuclear weapons. There is no consensus on whether the longer-range ballistic missile programs are on an immutable track to deployment and, if so, what the timetable for testing and deployment would be. On the fifth anniversary of the Rumsfeld Commission report, however, we can reach the tentative conclusion that the commission was either wrong about the intent of emerging missile states to develop and deploy ICBMs or wrong about the speed with which they could do so. It is also possible the commission was wrong about both. Moreover, none of the “plausible scenarios” for other, non-ICBM ballistic missile threats to the United States identified by the commission have materialized.

So What?

For the Rumsfeld Commission to have erred in its principal warning is an important symptom of deeper problems, but it is hardly an impeachable offense in and of itself. Indeed, it is unreasonable to expect either congressional commissions or intelligence agencies to predict the future with complete accuracy. Excessive concern about avoiding mistakes in prognostication can turn clear, insightful analysis into overly qualified mush. Properly done, the commission’s report could have helped its consumers understand trends, put dangers in perspective, and revealed underlying truths. The shortcoming of the Rumsfeld Commission report was not so much its inability to foresee specific missile development timelines as it was its failure to educate Congress and the public about an important and complicated issue. Instead of elucidating a security concern, it sounded a false alarm. In the process, it fostered a polarization of the intelligence community on the warning function, emphasizing possible but highly unlikely outcomes. Moreover, the Executive Summary of the report blurred the distinction between a real, tactical ballistic missile threat to U.S. forces and interests and a hypothetical future threat to U.S. territory from “rogue state” strategic ballistic missiles, just as the administration recently blurred the distinction between Iraq and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. This morphing of the threat was later matched by the Bush administration’s morphing of the response to the threat. Under Rumsfeld, the rhetorical, programmatic, and budgeting distinction between ballistic and tactical missile systems has been virtually eliminated in the administration’s analysis.

WMD Payloads: Apples and Oranges

The Rumsfeld Commission report also exaggerated the threats that Iran and North Korea could pose to the United States by blurring crucial distinctions on the ability of each country’s missiles to carry different payloads—from nuclear to chemical and biological weapons. The report asserted baldly that “a successfully launched ballistic missile has a high probability of delivering its payload to its target compared to other means of delivery.” But it didn’t make clear that these countries were far from producing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, far and away the most destructive payload, in terms of both the number of human victims and the amount of material damage. Because nuclear weapons require far more missile throw-weight than do chemical or biological weapons, developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM is an especially challenging way for North Korea or Iran to threaten the United States. The Rumsfeld report also did not explain that ballistic missiles are not an optimal means of delivering biological and chemical weapons. Biological weapons pose particular technical challenges in surviving the high temperatures of ICBM warhead re-entry. The deadly effects of chemical weapons are confined to the area of use, requiring more accuracy, and are critically weather dependent. Moreover, many types of chemical weapon agent are lethal for only a short period.

Rather than spelling out the relative dangers posed by the different weapons and evaluating the ability of Iran and North Korea to use ballistic missiles as delivery platforms, three categories of unconventional weapons were lumped together under the catchall label “weapons of mass destruction.” Such unqualified assertions mislead the non-expert reader about the basics of missile physics, contributing to the subsequent distortion of such events as North Korea’s unsuccessful Taepo Dong-1 space launch effort. In the latter case, the intelligence community was surprised by the addition of a small kick motor and satellite to the payload of the anticipated two-stage medium-range ballistic missile. Although North Korea failed to place the satellite in orbit, extrapolations of the system were made by strategic missile defense advocates to describe the Taepo Dong-1 as an intercontinental weapon, which could launch a “WMD”—meaning a chemical- or biological-weapon—warhead to the United States. Critics derided such a fantasy weapons payload as the “golf ball of death.”

If the Rumsfeld Commission had given a fair assessment of the dangers posed by ballistic missiles, far fewer of the foreign ballistic missiles projected by the commission to be a “serious threat” to the United States would have seemed so. Add to that the fact that the accuracy of rudimentary Iranian or North Korean ICBMs would be so poor as to prevent them even from reliably targeting cities and the report’s claims that such missiles have “a high probability of delivering its payload to its target compared to other means of delivery” would have come undone. Certainly, these nations would have been better off using simpler technologies to spread chemical or biological weapons even as the 1999 NIE pointed out. On the penultimate page of the unclassified summary’s discussion section, six advantages of nonmissile WMD delivery options for emerging ballistic missile states were listed, including less expense, greater accuracy, greater reliability, greater effectiveness for biological weapon dissemination, greater ability to avoid missile defenses, and greater ability to avoid retaliation by masking the source of attack.

Dulling Intelligence

The Rumsfeld Commission report, in addition to the U.S. intelligence community failures to provide tactical warning of the May 1998 Indian nuclear tests and the August 1998 North Korean missile launch, put intelligence agencies on the defensive. Intelligence officials were subsequently grilled during congressional hearings on previous ballistic missile threat assessments. The press criticized the failures of previous intelligence assessments to predict what happened. The intelligence community got the message and showed in subsequent ballistic missile assessments that it would not again be outdone in forecasting threats. But by making its projections more “worst case” and less qualified, these estimates became less useful for decision-makers, who have a greater need to know what is probable than what is theoretically possible. By making assessment criteria less precise, intelligence projections also became less useful for analysts and planners throughout government. The intelligence analysis, which predicts that “anything can happen,” may not be proven wrong, but neither will it be very useful. A similar dynamic emerged with intelligence assessments of Iraq. If a capability could not be disproven, it was assumed to exist. “Faith-based analysis” was characteristic of Rumsfeld in both cases.

Ignoring Deterrence

The Rumsfeld Commission report asserted that “emerging powers see ballistic missiles...as an effective means of coercing or intimidating adversaries, including the United States.” A number of U.S. officials, both in the Clinton and in the Bush administrations, have repeatedly claimed that the United States would not have come to Kuwait’s aid if Saddam Hussein had possessed nuclear weapons. (Such rhetoric would appear to have damaged U.S. deterrence much more effectively than any weapons developments occurring in the new missile states.) The report did not elaborate on why these states believed that strategic rather than shorter-range ballistic missiles were necessary to achieve this effect, but one can assume the authors were contending that only by credible threats to the American homeland would the United States be deterred from intervening in areas where its core interests were not engaged. Recent events, however, remind us that perceived threats to the American people can increase rather than discourage public support for U.S. military action abroad.

Logic would argue that any deterrent advantages for “rogue state” leaders of ballistic missiles with unconventional weapons could be achieved with shorter-range systems since the feared U.S. invasion force would likely be within range. For emerging missile powers to anticipate effectively intimidating the United States with threats of a direct missile attack against the American homeland is a dubious proposition. There is no empirical evidence that even the most erratic foreign leader would believe himself immune from such an attack. After all, the last time U.S. territory was attacked by a foreign state, the aggressor state was utterly defeated and then occupied, losing two cities to nuclear detonations in the process, and its ring-leaders were hanged. When a nonstate terrorist organization based in another country attacked America on September 11, 2001, the United States sent troops to the ends of the earth to overthrow that country’s government.

The problem with emerging missile powers using or threatening to use strategic ballistic missiles against the United States is that it cannot be done anonymously. There are no plausible scenarios for disguising the source of an ICBM attack on the United States. The sophistication of U.S. ballistic missile early-warning assets and the inability of emerging missile states to target those assets leaves little doubt that the origin of an ICBM attack would quickly become known. Devastating retaliation and the end of the attacker’s regime would have to be assumed.

Sabotaging Arms Control

The Clinton administration assumed that for it to win congressional approval for future reductions in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces that it would need some kind of strategic missile defense. In 1996, the Clinton administration sought to demonstrate this support by designating National Missile Defense (NMD) as a acquisition program. Prior to the Rumsfeld Commission report, however, the president had not yet made a deployment decision and Congress had not mandated system deployment. The Rumsfeld report and the North Korean missile launch that summer provided a huge impetus to the effort to develop and deploy strategic missile defenses and a rationale for withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. The report’s dubious assertions that the new missile states could have ICBMs within five years of a deployment decision and that there would be little warning in advance of a flight test created a new sense of urgency. Although Clinton ultimately postponed the expected deployment decision in 2000, the die had been cast. It made little difference that the ABM Treaty did not preclude the deployment of defenses against the short- and medium-range missiles, which had experienced dynamic growth. Nor did it matter that there was a nearly universal desire internationally for retention of the ABM Treaty and that Russia had made START II implementation contingent on adherence to the ABM Treaty. Bush announced before the end of his first year in office that the United States would withdraw from the ABM Treaty, without even selecting a system architecture that would explain the necessity for withdrawal. Six months later, the treaty was gone, and with it, the START II agreement that would have verifiably halved the number of U.S. and Russian strategic weapons.

Bilateral strategic arms control was not the only victim. Withdrawing from the ABM Treaty was one of the first in a long series of major U.S. policy decisions flying in the face of world opinion—spending precious political capital and lowering the reservoir of international support needed in moments of crisis. The full-bore pursuit of strategic missile defenses will have cost the United States tens of billions of dollars in obligations over five fiscal years. It has diverted attention and resources from the greater threat posed by terrorist attack. It has even siphoned funds from the tactical ballistic missile defense programs that would address a real and present danger to U.S. forces.

The Rumsfeld Commission report also weakened the NPT regime by ignoring progress made over the previous decade in nonproliferation efforts and implicitly denigrating the potential effectiveness of existing international instruments. So fixated was it on the empty half of the glass that it became completely blind to the full half. Moreover, by emphasizing how dire it would be for the United States to face off against even one unreliable, inaccurate ICBM with a biological- or chemical-weapon warhead, the report gave heart to the missile program advocates in hostile states that their efforts would yield a great political dividend in deterrent value.

The end result of both the Rumsfeld Commission report and subsequent intelligence estimates was to distract their consumers from the most serious security threats to the nation, leading to misallocation of resources, America’s estrangement from its allies, and a weakening of the nation’s deterrent. With five years’ hindsight, it is apparent that the impact of the Rumsfeld report were policies that actually worsened the security problems facing the nation. Now, in the aftermath of a war propelled by dubious threat assessments from the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz Pentagon, it is difficult to avoid being overcome by a powerful sense of déjà vu.


Ballistic Missiles: Who Has What?

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the only countries that have deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs). The table below depicts the status of the missile programs other countries have. None of the countries listed below have ever flight-tested an IRBM or an ICBM.

Countries With IRBM or ICBM Programs
Countries With Deployed Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles
India
India
Iran
Iran1
North Korea
Israel
Pakistan
North Korea
Pakistan
Saudi Arabia

1. Iran has flight-tested the Shahab-3 several times with mixed results. A handful of Shahab-3s with an estimated range of 1300 kilometers, are believed to be available if Iran decided to deployed them.

Sources: Arms Control Association and the Central Intelligence Agency

 

Missile Ranges
SRBM
Short-range ballistic missile (<1,000 km)
MRBM
Medium-range ballistic missile (1,000-3,000 km)
IRBM
Intermediate-range ballistic missile (3,000-5,500 km)
ICBM
Intercontinental ballistic missile (5,500+ km)

[Return to text.]


Developments Since the Rumsfeld Commission Report

The Rumsfeld Commission contended that the ballistic missile programs of Iran and North Korea posed “a substantial and immediate danger to the U.S., its vital interests and its allies.” The commission’s report insinuated that both countries could possibly develop and flight-test an intercontinental ballistic missile within a five-year period of choosing to do so, particularly if they received foreign help. Below is the current status of the Iranian and North Korean ballistic missile programs.

Iran

Iran has flight-tested and is in the “late stages” of developing its medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile. It is estimated that the Shahab-3 could travel up to 1,300 kilometers.

Iran is working on the Shahab-4 and the Shahab-5, both of which are expected to have greater ranges than the Shahab-3. Neither has been flight-tested, and the Shahab-5 is reportedly in the very early stages of development.

North Korea

The longest-range missile North Korea has deployed is the Nodong-1, which has an estimated capability of delivering a payload of up to 1,300 kilometers.

North Korea has conducted one flight test of the Taepo Dong-1, which has an estimated range of up to 2,000 kilometers. That sole flight test occurred in August 1998 and was a failed effort to put a satellite into orbit.

North Korea is working on a Taepo Dong-2, which, if successfully built, is estimated to have the capability to strike the continental United States. The missile has not been flight-tested.

North Korea declared a missile flight test moratorium in September 1999 and has reiterated that pledge several times since, the last at a September 2002 North Korean-Japanese summit. Pyongyang flight-tested short-range missiles earlier this year, but the White House said the tests were not covered by the moratorium, which Washington has always interpreted as applying to long-range ballistic missiles.

Sources: Arms Control Association and the Central Intelligence Agency

[Return to text.]


NOTES

1. The report’s executive summary is available at www.armscontrol.org.

2. James M. Lindsay and Michael O’Hanlon, Defending America: The Case for Limited National Missile Defense (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2001), p. vii.

3. John E. McLaughlin, “Watch for More and More Medium- and Long-Range Missiles,” International Herald Tribune, August 29, 2001.

4. Joseph Cirincione, Jon B. Wolfsthal, and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002), p. 73.


Greg Thielmann retired in 2002 as director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

 

 

U.S. Military Did Not Use Landmines in Iraq War

IWade Boese

In ousting Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, the U.S. military employed many weapons systems but not landmines. Nearly 150 countries have forsworn anti-personnel landmines (APLs) through the Ottawa Convention, but the United States had reserved the right to use them. (See ACT, April 2003.)

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Public Affairs reported June 5 that U.S. forces did not use or deploy any APLs in Iraq. CENTCOM later added that U.S. forces also chose not to use anti-vehicle mines or mixed systems, which have both anti-vehicle and anti-personnel components. When it led a coalition to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait a dozen years ago, the U.S. military used approximately 118,000 landmines.

No treaty barred any country from using landmines in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 1997, however, some 90 countries negotiated the Ottawa Convention, which bans the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines and certain mixed systems.

Although the United States refused to sign the accord, many of its key allies, including the United Kingdom and Australia, became states-parties. These two countries made it clear before their participation in this year’s invasion of Iraq that their militaries would not use APLs.

CENTCOM did not offer any reason for why landmines were not used. One explanation might have been a desire not to constrain U.S. and allied mobility on the fast-moving Iraqi battlefield.

According to CENTCOM, U.S. forces did suffer some casualties from Iraqi landmines. Like the United States, Iraq was not bound by the Ottawa Convention.

The Bush administration is currently conducting a review of U.S. landmine policy. President Bill Clinton pledged in May 1998 that the United States would end the use of APLs outside Korea by 2003 and sign the Ottawa Convention by 2006. Clinton tied the latter to the Pentagon successfully developing and fielding alternatives to APLs and mixed systems by that time.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a longtime landmine critic, said in an April 10 speech that the fact that U.S. forces defeated the Iraqi military in a few weeks, apparently without using landmines, is more proof that “landmines without a man-in-the-loop should have no future in U.S. war fighting plans.” Landmines with a man-in-the-loop system, which are permitted by the Ottawa Convention, require somebody to detonate them deliberately as opposed to ones that explode just by the contact or proximity of a person.

 

 

In ousting Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, the U.S. military employed many weapons systems but not landmines.

Nuclear Inspectors Return to Iraq, Pentagon Balks

Paul Kerr

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have returned to Iraq to account for and secure nuclear material that had been under IAEA safeguards. Meanwhile, coalition forces have yet to turn up any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and the CIA has tapped a former IAEA inspector to help them in the search.

The IAEA announced June 6 that it is conducting an inventory of nuclear material at a storage site near the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, following reports that nuclear material had been looted there during the recent invasion.

The nuclear material stored at Tuwaitha had been under IAEA safeguards from 1991 until just before the recent conflict. The IAEA is responsible for monitoring safeguards agreements undertaken by states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. IAEA inspectors last visited the site in February.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei stated that “the initial report [from inspectors] is that most of the material is accounted for,” according to a June 22 Reuters article.

But Pentagon officials emphasized in a June 5 press briefing that these inspections do “not set any precedent for future IAEA involvement in Iraq” and are only for securing the site at Tuwaitha as per the IAEA’s safeguards agreement. Such inspections of a declared installation are separate from those the IAEA conducted to enforce UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons and related facilities.

The officials emphasized that the inspection is a “cooperative effort” and that coalition forces are providing logistics support and security.

A knowledgeable U.S. official said in a June 20 interview that Washington will “revisit” UN weapons inspectors’ mandates, as per UN Security Council Resolution 1483, and has not ruled out readmitting the inspectors. The resolution, adopted in May, “reaffirms that Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations...and underlines the intention of the Council to revisit the mandates” of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the IAEA. UNMOVIC was charged with verifying that Iraq had dismantled its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and destroyed its missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers.

The United States, however, has indicated little interest in allowing the inspectors to return to Iraq. Pentagon officials said June 5 that Washington is concerned for the inspectors’ security. U.S. officials have also said that there is no need for UN inspectors because coalition forces are already performing disarmament tasks.

Hans Blix, who retired July 1 as executive chairman of UNMOVIC, told Arms Control Today June 16 that UN inspectors should verify that Iraq is free of WMD because that process “would have greater international credibility.” He added that UN inspectors could also perform a long-term monitoring function to ensure that Iraq does not reconstitute its prohibited weapons programs. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

The UN inspectors left Iraq March 18, the day before the coalition invasion started and after almost four months of work. Their departure followed U.S. failure to gain support from Security Council members opposed to the immediate use of force against Iraq.

Although coalition forces have discovered two trailers that U.S. officials believe were components of mobile facilities designed to produce biological weapons agents, no actual weapons have been discovered. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

Washington Augments Inspections

The Pentagon also provided new details about the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), formed in May to ferret out Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Major General Keith Dayton, currently with the Defense Intelligence Agency, has been assigned to head the group. The ISG will have between 1,300 and 1,400 personnel, with 200-300 devoted to searching for weapons on the ground.

During a May 30 press briefing, Dayton contrasted the ISG’s methods with the current coalition search. Rather than selecting sites for weapons searches from an existing list of possible sites, the ISG will consolidate intelligence capabilities in order to exploit new intelligence and identify sites where weapons are likely to be found. Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone stated during the same briefing that forces first assigned to locate weapons were supposed “to support the combat forces…[and] weren’t prepared…to do the kind of wide-scale analytic work” that the ISG will perform.

The CIA announced June 11 that George Tenet, director of Central Intelligence, has appointed former IAEA inspector David Kay as special adviser for strategy regarding Iraqi WMD programs. Kay’s task is “refining the overall approach for the search for Iraq’s” WMD while working with the ISG, the agency said.

Administration officials continue to assert that coalition forces will locate prohibited weapons in Iraq, attributing the lack of discoveries to Iraq’s skill at concealing weapons, the need to interview scientists knowledgeable about Iraq’s weapons programs, the looting and burning of evidence at suspected weapons sites, the need to review relevant documents, and the possibility that Iraq might have destroyed or moved prohibited weapons. (See ACT, May and June 2003.)

 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have returned to Iraq to account for and secure nuclear material that had been under IAEA safeguards.

Bush Administration Defends Intelligence Findings on Iraq

Paul Kerr

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq is forcing the Bush administration to defend itself against charges that it exaggerated the threat posed by former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, and two congressional committees have begun hearings on the administration’s interpretation of intelligence related to Iraq’s WMD.

The Bush administration’s chief rationale for invading Iraq was that it posed a near-term threat to the United States and countries in the Persian Gulf region. Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, the administration claimed, and might have used them or given them to terrorists. Vice President Dick Cheney stated in an August 26 speech that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction” and said March 16 that Iraq has “reconstituted nuclear weapons.” In an October speech, President George W. Bush himself asserted that Baghdad “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons,” and he repeated the claim two days before the invasion began.

UN weapons inspectors have long said that Iraq had never provided an adequate accounting of its prohibited weapons programs or convinced them that its weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed. But Hans Blix, who retired July 1 as executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), told Arms Control Today June 16 that he warned government officials not to equate unaccounted-for weapons with existing weapons.

Now, more than three months after coalition forces entered Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, leading critics to question the administration’s characterization of intelligence reports on Iraqi WMD and the imminence of the threat they posed. Greg Thielmann, who was director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research until retiring in September 2002, told Arms Control Today June 26 that senior administration officials made misleading statements about intelligence regarding Iraq. Representative Jane Harman (D-CA), ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said June 25 that “administration officials rarely included the caveats and qualifiers attached to the Intelligence Community’s judgments” in their statements about Iraq’s weapons programs.

Press reports have suggested that intelligence analysts felt pressured by the White House to alter their assessments to conform with the administration’s beliefs about Iraqi WMD. The CIA and the Pentagon, however, have denied these allegations. Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said in a May 30 statement that “the integrity of [the intelligence analysis] was maintained…and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong.”

Nevertheless, criticism of the administration’s use of intelligence has grown strong enough that Congress has decided to look into the matter. Initial calls by Democrats for a formal investigation were rebuffed, but both the House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting closed hearings as well as reviewing relevant intelligence documents. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a June 22 appearance on Fox News Sunday that his committee would also conduct a public hearing and issue a report after the closed hearings. Harman stated June 25 that the House will hold public hearings as well.

The Administration’s Defense

Administration officials have dismissed the criticism, expressing confidence in the veracity of their prewar claims and offering several rebuttals, the starkest of which was Bush’s assertion that coalition forces had actually “found…banned weapons.” In a May 29 interview with Polish television, Bush said that forces had discovered two trailers that the CIA had identified as being part of a larger system for producing biological weapons. (See ACT, June 2003.) The CIA, however, reported in May that the trailers never actually produced any weapons. Additionally, a State Department memorandum written after the CIA’s public report raised doubts about whether the trailers were built to produce biological weapons, spokesman Richard Boucher said June 26.

The president has not repeated his claim but instead has subtly changed his language when discussing Iraq’s potential WMD. During a June 9 briefing, instead of maintaining that Iraq had proscribed weapons themselves, the president said only that Iraq “had a weapons program” and that the United States will “find out that they did have a weapons program.” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said June 17 that Bush uses the terms interchangeably. The president continues to believe that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons up until the invasion and that weapons will be found, he added.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, however, continues to draw a distinction between the two terms, stating during a June 24 press briefing that coalition forces will “find weapons or evidence of weapons programs.” In March, he stated that the United States knew where Iraq’s WMD were. John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, argued during a June 4 hearing before the House International Relations Committee that Saddam Hussein’s “desire” to possess WMD, along with Iraq’s capability to produce them, was sufficient justification for military action.

Bush administration officials, such as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, have also defended their judgment by citing prewar intelligence reports, such as the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). Not all of those estimates, however, support the unequivocal claims the administration made about Iraqi WMD.

The introductory section to the NIE, for example, stated that “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.” However, the supporting explanation says only that Iraq has failed to fully account for past weapons production and is expanding its production capabilities.

A September 2002 British government report was more definitive in its judgment, stating that Iraq has “chemical and biological weapons…available, both from pre-Gulf War stocks and from recent production.” The report added, “The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so.” The supporting explanation asserted that Iraq retained some pre-Gulf War chemical weapons and had relevant delivery systems as well as production capabilities. It did not discuss specific weaponization efforts. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

A recently declassified portion of a September 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency study, however, seems to directly contradict the administration’s contentions about Iraq’s chemical weapons program, stating that “there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons.” The study does say that Iraq “probably possesses [chemical weapons] agent in chemical munitions,” but it then concedes that the agency lacks “any direct information” for this claim and that Iraq’s ability to reconstitute a chemical weapons program presupposes “the absence of an international inspection regime.”

The administration’s assertion that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program appears to be its weakest claim. The NIE stated that “in the absence of inspections…most analysts assess that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear [weapons] program,” adding that Iraq “may have acquired uranium enrichment capabilities” to produce a nuclear weapon. But the British report, while concurring that Iraq was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, added that Iraq could not produce a nuclear weapon “while [UN] sanctions remain effective.”

The legitimacy of the two chief pieces of evidence the administration provided of an ongoing Iraqi nuclear program was undermined significantly before the war even began. During his January State of the Union address, Bush claimed that Iraq was attempting to procure high-strength aluminum tubes to manufacture centrifuges for a uranium enrichment program and that Iraq was trying to procure uranium from Africa.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said in March that Iraq was probably using the aluminum tubes for rocket production and that it was “highly unlikely” that Baghdad could have used them for centrifuges. ElBaradei also said in March that the documents which provided the basis for the claim that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium were forgeries, and Rice acknowledged June 8 that the information had been “mistaken.” Press reports have also indicated that the administration’s own analysis had refuted its claims about the aluminum tubes and imported African uranium before the war began.

The Bush administration has also argued that the international community shared its judgment that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons. During a June 2 press briefing, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 “started out with the proposition that Iraq…had weapons of mass destruction.” Although the resolution stated that Iraq had obstructed weapons inspectors and failed to account for its weapons and related facilities, it did not claim Iraq possessed prohibited weapons.

 

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq is forcing the Bush administration to defend itself against charges that it exaggerated the threat...

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