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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, May 1 - July 10, 2003

Search For WMD In Iraq Fuels Crisis Of Credibility Over Pre-War Claims


As US and coalition forces work to confront the formidable security, political and economic challenges of post-war Iraq, two related questions loom large in the broader debate over the merits and lessons of the conflict: how does the main justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom - the need to eliminate the threat to regional and global security posed by the purported existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) - stand up to scrutiny a few months after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime; and how should the international community, so badly riven by the crisis, prepare more effective, less destabilising responses to future non-proliferation crises?

Given the current heightened level of concern over the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programmes - and the more diffuse, pervasive fear of WMD-terrorism in the post-9/11 era - the second question clearly carries more urgency. The search for answers, however, will inevitably be affected by the search for weapons in Iraq. Persistent doubts over the credibility of frequently hair-raising US and British intelligence claims concerning Iraqi WMD - presented to justify a war launched in the midst of a UN weapons inspections process and in the absence of explicit Security Council authorisation - are certain to cast a deep shadow over the post-Iraq debate.

The broad outlines of that debate, heavily overlaid by the growing controversy over pre-war intelligence and 'spin', are already beginning to emerge. How should reliable, impartial investigations into state activities in the four WMD fields - nuclear, chemical, biological and missile - be organised, funded and overseen? Is it time to revise or even move beyond 'traditional' models of multilateral arms control, or is there a danger of undoing some of the patient, unspectacular but valuable diplomatic work of recent decades? And, to end with perhaps the dominant theme of this journal, how should the balance be struck between the non-proliferation obligations of non-WMD states and the disarmament obligations of WMD-possessors - between the need to contain, and the imperative of eliminating, the threat posed by these horrendous weapons?

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May 9: as reported in the last issue, the US, UK and Spain introduce a draft resolution at the UN Security Council designed to define the Organisation's role in post-war Iraq. The resolution stipulates the immediate and unconditional lifting of sanctions, the establishment of a UN coordinator, and the investment of overall political and economic control of the country - including responsibility for distributing funds accruing from oil production - to an "Authority' operated by the "occupying forces". The draft meets with numerous objections from Council members, notably with respect to the perceived marginal role of the UN and the permanent lifting of sanctions - as opposed to their interim suspension on humanitarian grounds - before certification by UN weapons inspectors that Iraq was now effectively and reliably free of WMD and WMD-related facilities, equipment, material and programmes. Despite the criticism, Secretary of State Colin Powell (May 15) insists that the US will not compromise on the sanctions issue: "We are going for the lifting of sanctions. We want to get fifteen to zero like we did with resolution 1441 [mandating the return of UN weapons inspectors in November 2002]... I think the lift is achievable."

May 10: media reports abound of incidents of looting at Iraqi nuclear sites during the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime in early April. The most extensive looting and damage appears to have taken place at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Facility, 12 miles south of Baghdad. As reported in the last issue, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna made numerous appeals to the US in April to be allowed to visit Tuwaitha and assess the scale of the danger and the possible loss of radioactive material. According to the Agency, at the outbreak of the war on March 19, 1.8 tons of low-enriched, and several tons of natural and depleted, uranium (all non-weapons-grade but potentially usable in a radiological weapon or 'dirty bomb') was stored at Tuwaitha.

The US announces the discovery of a third 'mobile biological weapons laboratory' in Iraq - a trailer described by the Associated Press as "stripped by looters", located outside Iraq's main missile research and testing facility at al-Kindi, near the northern city of Mosul. On April 19, the first such vehicle, found intact, was also located in Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Iraq; a second trailer was taken into coalition custody near Baghdad in late April.

May 11: the Washington Post reports that the US 75th Exploitation Task Force, spearheading the efforts of the invading forces to find Iraqi WMD, was scheduled to leave the country in June - and was expected to leave empty-handed. The paper quotes senior task force official Colonel Robert Smith as no longer predicting that "we're going to find chemical rounds sitting next to a gun... That's what we came for, but we're past that."

In a heartfelt opinion piece in the Washington Post, David Albright, former senior IAEA weapons inspector in Iraq, criticises the US approach to the interrogation of captured Iraqi weapons scientists (see last issue for details of the key detainees): "[T]he Pentagon is acting like a city prosecutor, threatening prison terms to extract information. ... Respectful treatment of the Iraqi scientists and technicians...could help prevent them from fleeing, and possibly helping states or terrorist groups hostile to the United States and its allies. ... Why not treat them as war criminals? Because when it comes to WMD, the top priority must be preventing proliferation - not punishing people. Stopping the spread of these weapons is more important than putting scientists behind bars."

May 15: in Moscow, Secretary of State Powell suggests that the UN Security Council may have to keep its options open with regard to the post-war role of UN weapons inspections in Iraq - "I'm aware that some of our Security Council partners, including the Russian Federation, believe that there is a role for UNMOVIC [the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission]. We believe that that may not be the case any longer. But it's an area that we'll have to debate."

May 19: IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei repeats his request to dispatch a team of Agency experts to Iraq - "I am deeply concerned by the almost daily reports of looting and destruction at nuclear sites and about the potential radiological safety and security implications of nuclear and radiological materials that may no longer be under control." On May 21, IAEA spokesperson Mark Gwozdecky tells reporters: "We were officially informed this morning by the United States that they were not opposed to us sending a team to Tuwaitha... We are discussing modalities for IAEA missions to that plant... How soon [we go] depends on how soon we reach a compromise." The need for a 'compromise' reportedly stems from the IAEA's preference to conduct as broad a mission of reconnaissance and accounting as possible, and Washington's wish to avoid the appearance of a resumption of a UN weapons inspections process in the nuclear field.

May 22: faced with a clear American determination not to compromise on the issue of lifting sanctions, and in response to revisions of the May 9 US-UK-Spanish draft increasing the role and presence of the United Nations in post-war Iraq, the Security Council adopts resolution 1483 by 14 votes to 0, with only Syria (absent, rather than abstaining) denying the historic text a consensus seal of approval.

In its preambular section, actually dealing with key substantive issues, the resolution resolves "that the United Nations should play a vital role in humanitarian relief, the reconstruction of Iraq, and the restoration and establishment of national and local institutions for representative governance" and notes the "letter of May 8, 2003 from the Permanent Representatives of the United States of America and the United Kingdom...recognizing the specific authorities, responsibilities, and obligations under applicable international law of these states as occupying powers under unified command (the 'Authority')." Within this basic framework, the resolution's operative paragraphs call upon "the Authority, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and other relevant international law, to promote the welfare of the Iraqi people through the effective administration of the territory, including in particular working towards the restoration of conditions of security and stability and the creation of conditions in which the Iraqi people may freely determine their own political future" (operative paragraph 4), requests "the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative for Iraq whose independent responsibilities shall involve reporting regularly to the Council on his activities under this resolution, coordinating activities of the United Nations in post-conflict processes in Iraq, coordinating among United Nations and international agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction activities in Iraq, and, in coordination with the Authority, assisting the people of Iraq" (OP8), supports "the formation, by the people of Iraq with the help of the Authority and working with the Special Representative, of an Iraqi interim administration as a transitional administration run by Iraqis, until an internationally recognized, representative government is established by the people of Iraq and assumes the responsibilities of the Authority" (OP9), and - in the critical clause relating to the WMD issue - reaffirms "that Iraq must meet its disarmament obligations, encourages the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America to keep the Council informed of their activities in this regard, and underlines the intention of the Council to revisit the mandates of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] as set forth in resolutions 687 (1991) of 3 April 1991, 1284 (1999) of 17 December 1999, and 1441 (2002) of 8 November 2002" (OP11).

Further (OP14), the Council "underlines that the Development Fund for Iraq shall be used in a transparent manner to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, for the economic reconstruction and repair of Iraq's infrastructure, for the continued disarmament of Iraq, and for the costs of Iraqi civilian administration, and for other purposes benefiting the people of Iraq". With respect to winding down the 'oil-for-food' programme, funding humanitarian relief efforts in the country under the sanctions, the resolution "requests...that the Secretary-General, in coordination with the Authority, continue the exercise of his responsibilities...for a period of six months...and terminate within this time period, in the most cost effective manner, the ongoing operations of the 'Oil-for-Food' Programme (the 'Programme'), both at headquarters level and in the field, transferring responsibility for the administration of any remaining activity under the Programme to the Authority".

Given the evidently primary role accorded to the occupying powers, and the lifting of the requirement for an independent certification of Iraqi WMD-disarmament by UN weapons inspectors, the proposers of the resolution are understandably both magnanimous and delighted at its near-unanimous adoption. Not mentioning the WMD issue, President Bush declares: "The Security Council's resolution affirms that the United Nations will have an appropriate vital role in Iraq's reconstruction and transition to a new government. It establishes a strong and important framework for many nations to participate in these activities. I look forward to the Secretary General's appointment of a Special Representative as we work together to help Iraq recover from three decades of brutal dictatorship. I also look forward to the establishment of an Iraqi interim administration that is broad-based and represents all of Iraq's people so that Iraqis can participate as quickly and as fully as possible in the revitalization of their country." UK Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock tells the Council: "Throughout our negotiations on this resolution, I said that it was not an omnibus - that it did not seek to resolve every issue. Among the issues we will need to take up in due course are the functions of UNMOVIC and the IAEA as they relate to the complete disarmament of Iraq under previous resolutions. The United Kingdom continues to see a role for both bodies in the eventual confirmation of disarmament and, perhaps, if the Council agrees, in longer term monitoring and verification."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expresses as much relief as satisfaction at the outcome: "We should all be gratified that the Council has come together to chart the way forward in Iraq. As you know, I have always held that the unity of this Council is the indispensable foundation for effective action to maintain international peace and security and international law. The Council has adopted a resolution which spells out the assistance you expect the United Nations to give to the people of Iraq, in coordination with the occupying Powers, who have the responsibility for the effective administration of the territory. The mandate you have given us involves complex and difficult tasks. But we will carry it out to the best of our ability, just as we are already carrying out our vital task of humanitarian relief. Whatever differences there have been in the recent past, we now have a new basis on which to work. And we must all work very hard, keeping the interests of Iraqis at the forefront of all our efforts."

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov notes more dourly: "Without a doubt, this is a compromise. However, for the compromise to become possible, all participants in the negotiations made steps to meet each other halfway, and to do that even on such issues where, as it seemed at the outset, the original positions were not easy to bring closer together. The fact that this has largely become possible, attests to the awareness by all the Council members that the legitimate and just settlement of the Iraqi problem is possible only on a collective basis, with reliance on the UN Charter, which provides a dependable legal framework for solving the most complex tasks of today. The resolution drafted in the course of negotiations does not, of course, provide final answers to all the questions of an Iraqi settlement. The significance of the resolution above all lies in the fact that it establishes an international-legal basis for concerted efforts by the whole of the world community to overcome the crisis and defines clear benchmarks for such efforts: observance by the occupying powers of international humanitarian law, safeguarding Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, an early practical restoration of the Iraqi people's right to determine their political future themselves and to dispose of their natural resources." With regard to Iraqi disarmament, Lavrov states: "The resolution clearly confirms the need for clarifying the question of Iraqi WMD programmes with account for the existing Security Council decisions and the UNMOVIC and IAEA mandates. The nearest possibility to examine this aspect of Iraqi settlement will offer itself already in early June when the Council will get another UNMOVIC report. We also expect information, provided by the resolution, from the coalition forces about their efforts to look for traces of Iraqi WMD programmes. We hope that the appropriate provisions of the resolution will finally make it possible de jure and de facto to put a period in this question and also to decide concerning the further implementation of Security Council decisions aimed at non-resumption of Iraqi WMD programmes."

May 26: IAEA spokesperson Mark Gwozdecky announces agreement with the US on the dispatch in the near future of an Agency team to Tuwaitha in a narrowly circumscribed mission to "check how much low-enriched uranium and 'yellowcake' [natural uranium] is still stocked [at the facility] or [now] missing..." Gwozdecky states that the IAEA team will "determine what is missing and what it will take to recapture that material and ultimately repackage it and reseal it and secure the facility". The spokesperson adds: "The IAEA was informed by the United States that at this stage the occupying powers are responsible for the health and safety of the Iraqi people, including nuclear health and safety issues. The IAEA stands ready, if requested, to provide assistance in these areas."

May 27: Secretary-General Annan appoints Vieira de Mello of Brazil, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), as his Special Representative for Iraq. Annan tells reporters: "Last week the Security Council came together in resolution 1483 to chart the way forward for post-conflict Iraq. ... Some activities are very clear. The humanitarian mandate [of the UN] is very clear - we have direct responsibility for it... In other areas we have to work in partnership with the coalition and Iraqi civil society. These relationships have to be worked out on the ground, not here."

May 28: the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) releases a study concluding that the three Iraqi vehicles described by US officials as 'mobile biological weapons labs' indeed provided the "strongest evidence to date" of ongoing, active Iraqi WMD programmes. The report states: "We have investigated what other industrial processes may require such equipment - a fermenter, refrigeration and a gas capture system - and agree with the experts that BW [biological warfare] agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles".

May 29: in the absence of any evidence of an active Iraqi WMD stockpile, BBC Defence Correspondent Andrew Gilligan claims that a UK dossier on the Iraqi WMD threat had been "sexed up" at the request of Alistair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair's Director of Communications. Specifically, Gilligan's report, broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, quotes an unnamed UK source alleging that the most dramatic, headline-grabbing claim in the dossier - that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons capable of being armed for launch only 45 minutes after a deployment order - had been considered unreliable by the intelligence services, but was nonetheless inserted into the final draft at Mr. Campbell's behest.

Note: the dossier, Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: the Assessment of the British Government, was released on September 24, 2002. For the full text, see the website of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, http://www.fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/iraqdossier.pdf. In his September 24 statement to Parliament presenting the dossier, Prime Minister Blair, describing the "intelligence picture" in the report as "extensive, detailed and authoritative", stated: "It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population; and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability." For the Prime Minister's statement, see the website of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, http://www.acronym.org.uk/docs/0209/doc13.htm.

May 30: speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Conway, Commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, concedes his relief that "we were...not hit with weapons of mass destruction - I think we had four triggers that we were prepared to defend ourselves against, different times when we thought the regime might try to employ the weapons of mass destruction against us." Conway adds: "It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons... Again, believe me, it's not for lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there. Now, what that means in terms of intelligence failure, I think, is too strong a word [i.e. 'failure'] to use at thus point. ... We were simply wrong. But whether or not we're wrong at the national level, I think, still very much remains to be seen."

In Washington, Major General Keith Dayton, Operations Director at the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) outlines the imminent transfer of 'spearhead' WMD-investigation from the 75th Exploitation Task Force to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) on June 7. Dayton enthuses: "[T]he ISG will have a powerful intelligence analytical element forward-deployed in the region, with virtual connectivity to an interagency intelligence community 'fusion centre' here in the Washington area". The goal of the new Group, in Dayton's summary, will be to "put all the pieces together in what is appearing to be a very complex jigsaw puzzle."

June 5: speaking in Doha, Qatar, home of coalition command-and-control during Operation Iraqi Freedom, President Bush declares - "One thing...we've made sure [is] that Iraq is not going to serve as an arsenal for terrorist...groups. We recently found two mobile biological weapons facilities which were capable of producing biological agents. This is the man [Saddam Hussein] who spent decades hiding tools of mass murder. He knew the inspectors were looking for them. You know better than me, he's got a big country in which to hide them. We're on the look. We'll reveal the truth. But one thing is certain - no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the Iraqi regime is no more."

Hans Blix makes his final presentation to the UN Security Council as Executive Chair of UNMOVIC, a post he is due to vacate at the end of the month. Surveying the Commission's latest quarterly report - the nineteenth since its established by the Council in December 1999 - Blix picks out six main highlights, all seemingly pointing to the fact that war was avoidable:

"[1]. The first point, made in paragraph 8 of the report, is that the Commission has not at any time during the inspections in Iraq found evidence of the continuation or resumption of programmes of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed items - whether from pre-1991 or later. ... As I have noted before, this does not necessarily mean that such items could not exist. They might - there remain long lists of items unaccounted for - but it is not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just because it is unaccounted for.

[2]. In paragraph 11, we note that the long list of proscribed items unaccounted for has not been shortened by inspections or Iraqi declarations, explanations or documentation. It was the task of the Iraqi side to present items unaccounted for, if they existed, or to present evidence - records, documents or other - convincing the inspectors that the items do not exist. If - for whatever reason - this is not done, the international community cannot have confidence that past programmes or any remaining parts of them have been terminated. However, an effective presence of international inspectors will serve as a deterrent against efforts aimed at reactivating or developing new programmes of weapons of mass destruction.

[3]. Although during the last month and a half of our inspections, the Iraqi side made considerable efforts to provide explanations, to begin inquiries and to undertake exploration and excavations, these efforts did not bring the answers needed before we withdrew. We did not have time to interview more than a handful of the large number of persons who were said by Iraq to have participated in the unilateral destruction of biological and chemical weapons in 1991. Such interviews might have helped towards the resolution of some outstanding issues, although one must be aware that the totalitarian regime in Iraq continued to cast a shadow on the credibility of all interviews.

[4]. In the context of destruction of proscribed items, I should like also to draw the attention of the Council to the information provided in Appendix I. It shows that the weapons that were destroyed before inspectors left in 1998, were in almost all cases declared by Iraq and that the destruction occurred before 1993 in the case of missiles, and before 1994 in the case of chemical weapons. The existence and scope of the biological weapons programme was uncovered by UNSCOM [the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, UNMOVIC's predecessor organisation] in 1995 despite Iraq's denials and concealment efforts. As to items, only a few remnants of the biological weapons programme were subsequently found. A great deal - Iraq asserts all - was unilaterally destroyed in 1991. Thus, in the main, UNSCOM supervised destruction of actual weapons and agents took place during the early years of the Commission, and had regard mainly to items declared by Iraq or, at least, found at sites declared by Iraq. Subsequent UNSCOM disarmament activities dealt almost exclusively with the destruction of equipment and facilities for the production of weapons connected to past programmes. In addition, of course, UNSCOM was able, with great skill, to map large parts of Iraq's WMD programmes.

[5]. While we are all aware of the large amounts of proscribed items, which still remain unaccounted for, we should perhaps take note of the fact that for many years neither UNSCOM nor UNMOVIC made significant finds of weapons. The lack of finds could be because the items were unilaterally destroyed by the Iraqi authorities or else because they were effectively concealed by them. I trust that in the new environment in Iraq, in which there is full access and cooperation, and in which knowledgeable witnesses should no longer be inhibited to reveal what they know, it should be possible to establish the truth we all want to know.

[6]. Let me further make some brief comments on mobile facilities, as there is currently much media attention devoted to this issue. Even before UNMOVIC began its inspections in November 2002, the Commission had received information about such facilities and our inspectors were looking for sites where such mobile units could be hooked up for support services. Upon our request, the Iraqi side presented some information about mobile systems they possessed. As you can see from our report, neither the information presented nor pictures given to us by the Iraqi side, match the description that has recently been made available to us, as well as to the media, by the United States. At UNMOVIC we cannot, of course, make a proper evaluation of the depicted vehicles on the basis of published material alone."

Turning to the post-war role of the Commission, Blix comments: "In resolution 1483 (2003), the Security Council declared its intention to revisit the mandate of UNMOVIC. The Council will be aware that UNMOVIC remains ready to resume work in Iraq as an independent verifier or to conduct long-term monitoring, should the Council so decide. ... Some reduction of UNMOVIC staff will take place. However, the core expertise and experience available within UNMOVIC remain a valuable asset, which the Security Council could use where the services of an independent body would be required for verification or monitoring. This might be of particular value in the field of biological weapons and missiles for which there exists no international verification organization..."

Reacting to the presentation, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement (June 6) notes: "Blix confirmed that, over the entire period of its inspections in Iraq, UNMOVIC had uncovered no evidence of any continued or revived Iraqi programmes for weapons of mass destruction. The effective presence of international inspectors in the country, according to him, was by itself an important restraining factor against attempts to restart WMD development. The Executive Chairman stressed the continuing relevance of UNMOVIC to resume work in Iraq as an independent verification body, as well as for the organisation of long-term monitoring. In accordance with resolution 1483, the Security Council will yet return to considering the mandates of UNMOVIC and the IAEA in Iraq. ... Russia, like most other Security Council members, considers it necessary to ensure the role of UNMOVIC in certifying the closure of Iraq's disarmament dossier."

Speaking to reporters after the presentation, and a subsequent, private meeting with Blix, US Ambassador John Negroponte expresses no "doubt that we will be able to establish that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." Negroponte stresses that "resolution 1483 stipulated that we will revisit the issue of the mandate of UNMOVIC and the IAEA as regards WMD in Iraq... [we] haven't ruled anything in or out as of this particular time..."

June 6: an IAEA team finally arrives in Iraq to conduct an inventory inquiry of uranium sticks at Tuwaitha.

June 11: the Guardian publishes an extraordinary interview with outgoing UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix. Referring to consistent criticisms levelled by American officials, Blix comments: "They would say I was too compliant with the Iraqis when in reality [they meant that] I was not compliant enough with what the US wanted." Blix even referred to "bastards" in the US administration - presumably those he describes as regarding the UN as an "alien power", who "would not care if it sinks into the East river" - who "planted nasty things in the media": "Not that I cared very much... It was a bit like a mosquito bite in the evening that is still there in the morning - an irritant." Remembering the final collapse of the inspections process, Blix states: "The lowest point was the end when we realised it [a peaceful resolution to the crisis] was not going to happen. That was very disappointing. The war cost a lot in destruction and lives." Accentuating the positive, however, Blix tells the newspaper: "We proved beyond a doubt, and under immense pressure, that independent, impartial, objective monitoring can be achieved. We were in nobody's pocket. Every day I get letters from inspectors who would like to work again. We're immensely proud of what UNMOVIC achieved."

CIA Director George Tenet appoints former UNSCOM chief nuclear inspector David Kay as 'Special Adviser for Strategy regarding Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Programmes'.

June 15: the Observer newspaper reports that a British intelligence investigation into the three alleged mobile biological weapons labs seized by coalition forces in northern Iraq had concluded they were probably in service to produce hydrogen to fill artillery balloons - the official, pre-war Iraqi explanation of their function. The paper quotes a UK official and biological expert as commenting: "They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons." US officials stand by their story, while acknowledging that no traces of biological warfare agent had been detected in any of the apprehended vehicles.

June 17: testifying at the start of an inquiry into pre-war British intelligence by the UK Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook (who resigned his position as Leader of the House of Commons on March 17 in protest at the imminent invasion of Iraq) describes a February 2003 government report - already enshrined in British political folklore as 'the dodgy dossier', and which, remarkably enough, managed to include plagiarised and outdated material from a student's thesis - as "a spectacular own goal" in which there was "very little...to suggest a new or alarming threat". Clare Short, who resigned as International Development Secretary shortly after the end of the major combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, describes Prime Minister Blair - who on June 11 announced he would not be appearing as witness before the Committee - as a practitioner of "honourable deception", the result of his over-eagerness to back the American push to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

June 19: testifying before the House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee, the BBC's Andrew Gilligan defends his May 29 report suggesting the deliberate hyping of Iraqi WMD claims. Without naming his source, Gilligan describes him as "one of the senior British officials in charge of drawing up the dossier; a source of long standing, known well to me." Gilligan then quotes the source as telling him: "I believe it is 30 percent likely that there was a CW [chemical weapons] programme in the six months before the war, and more likely that there was a BW [biological weapons] programme, but it was quite small because they couldn't conceal a larger programme - the sanctions were actually quite effective, and they did limit the programme."

June 20: Science magazine quotes an unnamed IAEA official as stating that "nearly all the material that went missing" from Tuwaitha "has been recovered". The Agency refuses to comment on the report in advance of the release of an official assessment. However, Director General ElBaradei confirms (June 22): "The initial report is that most of the material is accounted for".

June 24: UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw appears before the Foreign Affairs Committee's inquiry into pre-war intelligence. Straw describes as "completely untrue" Andrew Gilligan's claim of a deliberate hyping of evidence: "There was never any request for the so-called 'sexing up' [of intelligence material]..." Straw adds: "Some of our critics have tried to put into our mouths words and criteria we never ever used... We did not use the words 'immediate' or 'imminent' [threat]... We did not use that because, plainly, the evidence did not justify that. We did say there was a 'current and serious' threat and I stand by that completely..." The following day, the official at the centre of the storm, the Prime Minister's Communications Director, Alastair Campbell, tells the Committee during a marathon, three-hour cross-examination: "I know we are right in relation to that 45-minute point." Campbell described the assertion that he had insisted on inserted the 45-minute claim against intelligence advice as "completely and totally untrue".

June 26: the New York Times reports that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research [INR] had described as "premature" the CIA's May 28 report concluding beyond reasonable doubt that the three suspected Iraqi biological weapons labs were clearly part of the country's clandestine WMD effort. The Times article refers to a classified June 2 INR memorandum to Secretary of State Powell warning that alternative explanations - presumably encompassing that proffered by British intelligence (see 'Chronology', June 15) - could not yet be discounted. Responding to the report, Secretary Powell tells reporters: "[T]he INR Bureau advised me on June 2, as the story said, that they didn't have the same level of assurance and confidence in what the intelligence community was saying about the mobile labs as the intelligence community did. They weren't disagreeing with the intelligence community in the sense that they weren't saying it wasn't a mobile lab. The were just not quite up to the curve of confidence that the rest of the intelligence community was at. And so when they reported this to me...I immediately had my Deputy, Rich[ard] Armitage, communicate this point of view to the Director of Central Intelligence [DCI, George Tenet]. ... And the DCI, who is the person who makes the final judgment on such matters, felt confident about the judgment that he had made. And I felt confident about the judgment that he had made, but I appreciated the fact that the experts in my Department were expressing their opinion to me."

US officials tell reporters that materials and documents related to Iraq's efforts to construct a centrifuge to enrich uranium had been literally unearthed by coalition forces in the garden of a former, now-cooperative Iraqi nuclear scientist, Mahdi Obeidi. An unnamed US intelligence official stressed that while "this is not a 'smoking gun'...what's significant is that these documents and components were deliberately hidden at the direction of Iraq's senior leadership with the aim of preserving the regime's capacity to resume construction of a centrifuge device that at some point could be used to enrich uranium for a nuclear device." White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer comments: "Dr. Obeidi told us that these items, the blueprints and the key centrifuge pieces, represented a template for what would be needed to rebuild a centrifuge uranium enrichment programme. He also claimed that this concealment was part of a secret high-level plan to reconstitute the nuclear weapons programme once sanctions had ended... What's notable is that this case illustrates the extreme challenge that the world community faces in Iraq as we search for evidence of WMD programmes that were designed to elude detection by international inspectors..."

June 30: Hans Blix's tenure as UNMOVIC Executive Chairman expires. UN Secretary-General Annan praises the outgoing official in unusually glowing terms: "Few United Nations officials have demonstrated the calm, grace and professionalism that you have in the face of virtually unprecedented pressure and attention over the past several months... Your steadfast integrity, objectivity and sound judgment were an asset to the Organisation and the international community as a whole". On July 1, UNMOVIC's Deputy Executive Chairman, Demetrius Perricos, assumes interim control of the Commission.

July 3: Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh announces the appointment of Hans Blix (a Swedish national) as Chair of a new, independent International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Lindh tells reporters in Stockholm: "We must do everything we can to avert the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. It is very gratifying that Hans Blix is willing to accept the chairmanship - the experience and knowledge he possesses is unique. The purpose of the Commission is to provide new impetus to the international efforts involved in disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles. The Commission will be formed during the autumn of 2003 under the leadership of Hans Blix and plans call for their recommendations to be submitted in 2005."

July 7: the UK Foreign Affairs Committee releases its report on 'The Decision to go to War in Iraq'. With regard to the central political controversy described above, the report concludes "that Alastair Campbell did not play any role in the inclusion of the 45-minute claim in the September dossier". With regard to the dossier itself, "we conclude that the language used...was in places more assertive than that traditionally used in intelligence documents". Drawing a more general and fundamental conclusion, the Committee argues "that it is too soon to tell whether the government's assertions on Iraq's chemical and biological weapons will be borne out. However, we have no doubt that the threat posed to United Kingdom forces was genuinely perceived as a real and present danger and that steps taken to protect them were justified by the information available at the time."

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Straw welcomes the report, arguing: "The BBC should, I believe, now have the grace...to acknowledge that that they got it wrong. ... [T]he question the BBC has to answer today remains the same as it has been for over a month - are the allegations which they made on May 29 true or false? They are false."

July 8: Appearing before the UK Parliamentary Liaison Committee, Prime Minister Blair, evidently still smarting from the government's clash with the BBC, states with feeling: "I refute any suggestion that we misled Parliament and the people. I think we did the right thing in relation to Iraq. I stand 100 percent by it and I think our intelligence services gave us the correct information at the time... For me the jury is not out. I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes." Many commentators note the prediction of evidence of WMD programmes, rather than actual weapons.

In a brief but politically momentous statement, US National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton provides official confirmation that one small but sensational link in the pre-war intelligence chain had been proven to be false: "We now know that documents alleging a transaction between Iraq and Niger had been forged." The 'transaction' at issue was nothing less than the attempted, clandestine importation of 'yellowcake' uranium ore into Iraq from the African country. The claim formed part of the British pre-war intelligence case. As summarised below, US intelligence was also aware of the allegations of an African connection, both in Niger and elsewhere, and conducted its own investigations, but was never sufficiently persuaded of the evidence to commit itself to a public declaration. Such an open accusation was first made, in non-specific terms, in the September 2002 UK dossier: "There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa". Together with other elements of UK intelligence, the allegation subsequently made its way - in what were soon to become known as 'The Sixteen Words' - into President Bush's State of the Union Address on January 28: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The forged nature of the documentation supporting the Niger allegation was first exposed by the IAEA in Director General ElBaradei's March 7 statement on Iraq to the UN Security Council: "Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents - which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger - are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded." The documents at issue were provided to the IAEA by the US government on February 4. Interestingly, US Secretary of State Powell's pivotal, tour de force presentation to the Security Council on February 5 made no mention of either the specific Iraq-Niger, or the broader Iraq-Africa, link.

Anton's statement was issued two days after an article ('What I Didn't Find in Africa') in the New York Times by Joseph Wilson, US ambassador to Gabon from 1992-1995. As early as February 2002, Wilson had visited Niger at the request of the CIA to investigate a possible Iraq/uranium link. After eight days of investigation in the country, Wilson reveals in the Times article, he reached a clear conclusion - reported back to the CIA and the State Department - that "it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." Wilson writes: "Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

Understandably, the Wilson article combined with the Anton statement to produce a combustible reaction among Democrats - both those who opposed and supported Operation Iraqi Freedom. Senator Bob Graham, a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination and an opponent of the war, states: "The President's aides finally admit the truth - there was no credible evidence Iraq was actively pursuing the purchase of nuclear material". Graham adds: "With this admission from the White House that the President has misled us, George Bush's credibility is increasingly in doubt. Mr. President, what else don't we know?" Representative Dick Gephardt, also running for the Presidential nomination but a strong supporter of the war, argues: "President Bush's factual lapse in his State of the Union address cannot be simply dismissed as an intelligence failure". Senator Carl Levin, who sided with Senator Graham in voting against the Congressional war resolution, joins many of his colleagues in calling for an independent inquiry to uncover "why the information about the bogus uranium sales didn't reach policymakers during 2002 and why, as late as the President's State of the Union address...our policymakers were still using information which the intelligence community knew was almost certainly false." Referring to the President's 'sixteen words', Terry McAuliffe, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, comments that all evidence pointed not to Iraqi duplicity but a clear intent by the White House to create a false impression: "This was not a mistake. It was no oversight, and it was no error." According to Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, however, the big picture remained unaltered by the uncovering of a single, forged detail: "It's very easy to pick one little flaw here, one little flaw there. The overall reason we went into Iraq is...morally sound."

July 9: ironically, the Niger story breaks over the White House during the President's first visit to Africa - a tour postponed in January to enable the Commander-in-Chief to focus on the looming conflict with Iraq. In South Africa, Bush comments: "There's no doubt in my mind that when all is said and done the facts will show the world the truth. There's going to be, you know, a lot of attempts to try to rewrite history, and I can understand that. But I'm absolutely confident in the decision I made. ... There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world peace. And there's no doubt in my mind that the United States...did the right thing in removing him from power."

In Washington, White House Press Secretary Fleischer insists that "there's a bigger picture here...and this is what is fundamental - the case for war against Iraq was based on the threat that Saddam Hussein posed because of his possession of weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological, and his efforts to reconstitute a nuclear programme. The case for going to war against Saddam is as just today as it was the day the President gave that [State of the Union] speech". Fleischer then describes Ambassador Wilson's presentation of the importance of his February 2002 visit to Niger as overblown and tangential to the main question: "He spent eight days in Niger and concluded that Niger denied the allegation. Well, typically, nations don't admit to going round [ignoring] nuclear non-proliferation [obligations]. ... The issue here is whether the documents on yellowcake were forged. He didn't address that issue. That's the information that subsequently came to light, not prior to the speech." The 'subsequently', presumably, here refers to the IAEA determination, without which the full extent of the tenuousness of this aspect of the pre-war case may never have come to light.

July 10: the BBC's Political Editor, Andrew Marr, reports that "very senior sources" in the British government had told him that chemical or biological weapons were now "unlikely to be found" in Iraq. Speaking in the Today programme, Marr comments: "The assumption is that Saddam Hussein, for whatever reason, destroyed them or hid them beyond finding before the war started. And there's no doubt also in their [the sources'] minds that they will turn up interviews with scientists, paper documentation and so on. ... But when it comes to physical evidence, I have to say that the belief that that will be found and...paraded in front of the cameras seems to be trickling into the sand... The people I am talking to were not cynics, they are not people who made the evidence up or who believed it wasn't there in the first place - they are genuinely bemused." As Marr adds: "But nobody's been killed by paper documentation ever, and it does change the nature of things."

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tells Today that Marr's story is a "dramatic development": "Parliament voted for war because it was told that Saddam did have real weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, what the Prime Minister said on the eve of the war was that the weapons posed a real and present danger, either because he [Saddam] might use them or because he might pass them on to terrorist groups." Cook also comments that if the UN weapons inspectors had been given time to complete their work. "we would now know what we're being told, that Saddam did not have those weapons...and we'd have found out without a war in which thousands were killed." Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major adds his voice to the call for an independent inquiry into the pre-war intelligence issue: "It has to be cleared up because it is in the government's interest to clear it up. We are in the middle of the war against terror and nobody knows what our troops may be asked to do next. It is essential that the word of government and the intelligence services is readily accepted by Parliament and the public."

July 11: CIA Director George Tenet issues a statement taking the blame for the President's State of the Union reference to the Africa-Iraq uranium connection. The statement opens: "Let me be clear about several things right up front. First, CIA approved the President's State of the Union address before it was delivered. Second, I am responsible for the approval process in my Agency. And third, the President had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound. These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President."

Tenet then sets the ill-fated decision in detailed and alarming context. First, the Wilson visit: "There was fragmentary intelligence gathered in late 2001 and early 2002 on the allegations of Saddam's efforts to obtain additional raw uranium from Africa, beyond the 550 metric tons already in Iraq. In an effort to inquire about certain reports involving Niger, CIA's counter-proliferation experts, on their own initiative, asked an individual with ties to the region [Ambassador Wilson] to make a visit to see what he could learn. He reported back to us that one of the former Nigerien officials he met stated that he was unaware of any contract being signed between Niger and rogue states for the sale of uranium during his tenure in office. The same former official also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss 'expanding commercial relations' between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales. The former officials also offered details regarding Niger's processes for monitoring and transporting uranium that suggested it would be very unlikely that material could be illicitly diverted. There was no mention in the report of forged documents - or any suggestion of the existence of documents at all. Because this report, in our view, did not resolve whether Iraq was or was not seeking uranium from abroad, it was given a normal and wide distribution, but we did not brief it to the President, Vice-President or other senior Administration officials."

Next, the differences of emphasis and judgment between the US and UK intelligence agencies: "In the fall of 2002, my Deputy and I briefed hundreds of members of Congress on Iraq. We did not brief the uranium acquisition story. Also in the fall of 2002, our British colleagues told us they were planning to publish an unclassified dossier that mentioned reports of Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium in Africa. Because we viewed the reporting on such acquisition attempts to be inconclusive, we expressed reservations about its inclusion but our colleagues said they were confident in their reports and left it in their document. In September and October 2002 before Senate Committees, senior intelligence officials in response to questions told members of Congress that we differed with the British dossier on the reliability of the uranium reporting."

Then the final build-up to the State of the Union address: "In October, the Intelligence Community (IC) produced a classified, 90-page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's WMD programs. There is a lengthy section in which most agencies of the Intelligence Community judged that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Let me emphasize, the NIE's Key Judgments cited six reasons for this assessment; the African uranium issue was not one of them. But in the interest of completeness, the report contained three paragraphs that discuss Iraq's significant 550-metric ton uranium stockpile and how it could be diverted while under IAEA safeguard. These paragraphs also cited reports that Iraq began 'vigorously trying to procure' more uranium from Niger and two other African countries, which would shorten the time Baghdad needed to produce nuclear weapons. The NIE states: 'A foreign government service [the UK] reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of pure uranium (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out the arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake.' The Estimate also states: 'We do not know the status of this arrangement.' With regard to reports that Iraq had sought uranium from two other countries, the Estimate says: 'We cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources.' Much later in the NIE text, in presenting an alternate view on another matter, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research included a sentence that states: 'Finally, the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious.' An unclassified CIA White Paper in October made no mention of the issue, again because it was not fundamental to the judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, and because we had questions about some of the reporting. For the same reasons, the subject was not included in many public speeches, Congressional testimony and the Secretary of State's United Nations presentation in early 2003."

And finally, the inclusion of the reference in the President's most important speech of the year: "The background above makes it even more troubling that the 16 words eventually made it into the State of the Union speech. This was a mistake. Portions of the State of the Union speech draft came to the CIA for comment shortly before the speech was given. Various parts were shared with cognizant elements of the Agency for review. Although the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries, officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues. Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct - i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

For all its detail, evidently intended to stand as the definitive version of events, Tenet's statement fuelled speculation that the CIA had actually succumbed to pressure to drop its deeply-held objections to the inclusion of any reference to the unproven link. Press speculation swirled around two possible sources of such pressure: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney. Certainly, both figures were quick to denounce IAEA Director General ElBaradei following his March 7 statement to the Security Council declaring the Niger connection bogus and pouring cold water on other aspects of the administration's 'nuclear case' against Iraq. On March 9, for example, Rice stated: "I was a little concerned that the IAEA's remarks about the Iraqi nuclear programme the other day seemed to draw certain conclusions [suggesting no evidence of an extant Iraqi nuclear programme]... The IAEA, of course, missed the programme [in Iraq] in '91, missed the programme in '95, missed it in '98. We need to be careful about drawing those conclusions, particularly in a totalitarian state like Iraq." On March 16, Cheney commented: "I think Mr. ElBaradei, frankly, is wrong. And I think, if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency in this kind of issue, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past." (See Disarmament Diplomacy No. 70, April/May 2003, p. 34.)

Accompanying the President on his trip to Africa, Rice denies any suggestion that she overruled Tenet: "The CIA cleared the speech in its entirely... [If the CIA had doubts about the Africa reference,] these doubts were not communicated to the President... If the Director of Central Intelligence had said, 'Take this out of the speech', it would have been gone - without question."

In Washington, John Kerry, a pro-war Senator and a frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination, issues a statement declaring: "The continued finger-pointing, charge-countercharge, and bureaucratic warfare within the administration do nothing to make this country safer and will simply further erode the confidence of the American public and our allies around the world." Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, an outspoken anti-war figure in the Democratic Party and another candidate for the Presidential nomination, argues: "We need a full-scale...bipartisan investigation, outside the Congress... The Republican majority is stonewalling..." Echoing language used by investigators prosecuting the Watergate scandal, Dean adds: "We need to find our what the President knew and when he knew it... This government either is inept or simply has not told us the truth. We need to know what the answers are here..."

Speaking in Uganda, President Bush comments: "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services. And it was a speech that detailed to the American people the dangers posed by the Saddam Hussein regime. And my government took the appropriate response to those dangers. And as a result, the world is going to be more secure and more peaceful."

A few days after the Tenet statement, the Washington Post reports (July 13) that the CIA intervened to remove reference to the Niger connection from a speech delivered by President Bush in Cincinnati on October 7.

July 13: in an interview published in the Independent on Sunday, Hans Blix describes the now-infamous claim at the heart of the BBC-UK government row over the September dossier as "a fundamental mistake", stating that it was "highly unlikely that were any means of delivering biological or chemical weapons within 45 minutes. ... That seems pretty far off the mark to me." Labour MP Peter Hain, who replaced Robin Cook as Leader of the House of Commons, states that the rush of pre-war intelligence, including the September report, "frightened the life out of me and made me even more convinced that we should deal with Saddam Hussein". Hain adds: "There is a lot of frenzy about some of the detail at the moment, and I don't feel comfortable with the fact that no...additional evidence of weapons of mass destruction has been uncovered yet, but I believe it will be because it is there." With regard to the specific allegation implicating Niger in seeking to provide uranium to Baghdad, Hain insists: "We maintain it still to be true because we had intelligence from other intelligence services, which we were not able to share with the Americans." This practical difficulty is also referred to by Condoleezza Rice, who tells NBC television: "The British still stand by their statement... They have told us that despite the fact that we had apparently some concerns about that [September 2002] report, that they had other sources, and that they stand by the statement."

A Downing Street official, referring to a staunch defence of British intelligence contained in a July 12 letter from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to the Foreign Affairs Committee, insists that the UK government "would not blink" and was "not backing down" over its Niger/Africa claims. Straw's letter states: "I want to make it clear that neither I, nor, to the best of my knowledge, any UK officials were aware of Ambassador Wilson's visit until reference first appeared in the press. ... The media has reported that the CIA expressed reservations to us about this [Niger/Africa] element of the September dossier. This is correct. However, the US comment was unsupported by evidence and UK officials were confident that the dossier's statement was based on reliable information which had not been shared with the US. A judgment was therefore made to retain it."

Robin Cook (July 13) expresses doubts about this version of events: "From all I know of the intimate relationship between the CIA and the [UK] Secret Intelligence Services, I find it hard to credit that there was such a breakdown of communication between them". Cook concludes: "It is time the government came clean and published the evidence. The longer it delays, the greater the suspicion will become that it didn't believe it itself." This was also the advice of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee, which noted in its July 7 report: "We conclude that it is very odd indeed that the government asserts that it was not relying on the evidence which has since been shown to have been forged, but that eight months later it is still reviewing the other evidence. The assertion 'that Iraq sought the supply of significant amounts of uranium from Africa' should have been qualified to reflect the uncertainty. We recommend that the government explain on what evidence it relied for its judgment..."

Note: after the period under review, the already bitter dispute between the UK government and the BBC over pre-war intelligence on Iraq took a tragic twist with the suicide of the distinguished British microbiologist and biological warfare expert Dr. David Kelly. For the past three years, Dr. Kelly, a senior figure in UNSCOM's BW inspections effort in Iraq, had served as scientific adviser to the government's Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat. Following the discovery of his body (July 18), and after discussions with the bereaved family, the BBC (July 20) confirmed that Dr. Kelly was the principal source for Andrew Gilligan's May 29 report alleging a deliberate hyping of Iraqi WMD capability in the September dossier. The scientist's name had been openly mentioned as the likely source of the story in the days leading up to the tragedy. On July 15, under obvious strain, Dr. Kelly appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee to answer questions on his role. On July 18, the Prime Minister's Office announced the establishment of an independent inquiry, to be headed by High Court Justice Lord Hutton, into the circumstances surrounding Dr. Kelly's death.

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Selected Comment

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, June 3: "If they don't find anything, obviously there are going to be lots of questions..."

UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix, interview with Agence France Presse, June 17: "I think if Saddam Hussein, even in the first week of March, had come up with a declaration that Iraq had no weapons and intended to cooperate, it would have made more impression... If Iraq had succeeded in resolving a few outstanding issues it would have created a new situation... Even though the US had 200,000 people there, they might have concluded the game was wrong and called back their people just as President Bill Clinton called back planes when they were on their way to bomb Iraq in [March] 1998. Mr. Saddam never came up with such a declaration and they did not clear up any of these key issues."

Hans Blix, interview with the Arms Control Association, June 16: "I am surprised...that it seems so many of the US military seemed to have been convinced that there would be lots of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons, for them to take care of as soon as they went in and that they would practically stumble on these things. If anyone had cared, in the military circles, to study what UNSCOM was saying for quite a number of years, and what we were saying, they should not have assumed that they would stumble on weapons."

Hans Blix, interview in Le Monde, June 12: "launching pre-emptive strikes on the basis of intelligence gathered by secret services is something to which we should pay careful attention... It is not the first time that force has been used on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be erroneous..."

Hans Blix, referring to pre-war US/UK intelligence seen by UNMOVIC, interview with the BBC, June 6: "I thought, 'My God, if this is the best intelligence they have and we find nothing, what about the rest?'"

Hans Blix, speaking to reporters after his final presentation to the Security Council, June 5: "There was a great deal of unilateral destruction [of WMD by Iraq] in 1991. This we know. How much? That was the big question. Did they destroy all which they maintain or did they keep something, did they squirrel something away? When we were in Iraq in the last period [November 2002-March 2003], they were trying with all kinds of inquiries, excavations, etc., to prove that they had destroyed it all. That was not easy to do and I don't think that they succeeded in that, but they certainly tried... [But] then one would have to really ask oneself what was the reason for the kind of conduct that Iraq had during the '90s and why were they living through all these sanctions and hardships which they had?"

Hans Blix, interview in Der Tagesspiegel, May 23: "I am beginning to suspect that there were none [WMD]..."

Rolf Ekeus, Executive Chairman of UNSCOM (1991-1997), article entitled 'Iraq's Real Weapons Threat', Washington Post, June 29: "The door is now open for diplomatic initiatives to remake the region into a WMD-free area and to shape a structure in the Persian Gulf of stability and security. Moreover, the defeat of the Hussein regime, a deadly opponent to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, has opened the door to a realistic and re-energised peace process in the Middle East. This is enough to justify the international military intervention undertaken by the United States and Britain. To accept the alternative - letting Hussein remain in power with his chemical and biological capability - would have been to tolerate a continuing destabilising arms race in the Gulf, including future nuclearisation of the region, threats to the world's energy supplies, leakage of WMD technology and expertise to terrorist networks, systematic sabotage of efforts to create and sustain a process of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the continued terrorising of the Iraqi people."

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, May 19: "The war in Iraq is a wake-up call that we need to stick together... We need to continue to see and learn that we are best served by solving our problems through dialogue and interaction... I don't think that resorting to war every time we have a dispute is going to solve our problems."

US President George W. Bush, June 17: "We made it clear to the dictator of Iraq that he must disarm. He chose not to do so, so we disarmed him. And I know there is a lot of revisionist history going on, but one thing is certain - he is no longer a threat to the free world."

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, July 9: "I think the American people continue to express their support for ridding the world of Saddam Hussein based on just cause, knowing that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons that were unaccounted for, that we're still confident we'll find... It will take as long as it takes until they are discovered."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, June 23: "UN resolution after UN resolution over a period of twelve years was based on the understanding that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Resolution 1441 last fall, all fifteen nations voted for it because of the understanding that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I believe that they did have them and still have them, and I am confident that as we continue our efforts we will find these weapons, as well as the programmes that supported these weapons."

Secretary Powell, June 2: "they have weapons of mass destruction, they've had them, they used them against Iran. That is not disputable. They used weapons of mass destruction against their own people. We know that they threw the [UN] inspectors out in 1998 rather than let the inspectors find weapons of mass destruction."

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, July 13: "The President took the nation to war to depose a bloody tyrant who had defied the world for 12 years, who was building a weapons of mass destruction programme and who had weapons of mass destruction."

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, July 13: "In no instance did anyone in the administration that I know of suggest that they had a nuclear weapon... We did believe, and do believe, that they had reconstituted their programme, and at some point would have a nuclear programme...if left alone."

Secretary Rumsfeld, testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee, July 9: "The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder. We acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light through the prism of our experience on September 11."

US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, June 3: "I wouldn't suggest that we've got to the bottom of the whole story yet. Going to search door-to-door in a country the size of California is not the way to find these things. There should be no doubt that this regime was a threat to our security and a threat we could not live with. ... Saddam Hussein was guilty of killing more Muslims than anyone in history. There is no question the Iraqi people are far better off without that regime."

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, May 31: "Before September 11 terrorism was viewed as something ugly, but you lived with it. Saddam Hussein was viewed as something ugly, something that was for the Iraqi people to take care of. After11, terrorism looked different. Saddam Hussein, who played with terrorists and had weapons of mass destruction, looked much more threatening to [the] United States than just to his own people. And so it changed the calculation entirely. I means, without that perception of threat, I don't believe the President would have considered it something that American lives should be risked for, as terrible as the regime was..."

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, interview in Vanity Fair, May 29: "For bureaucratic reasons we settle on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one [justification for war that]...everyone could agree on." (Note: Wolfowitz added that another "almost unnoticed, but huge" justification for the war was the prospect it opened up for allowing US troops to leave Saudi Arabia and thus lift "that burden" from the Kingdom.)

US Republican Senator Robert Bennett, June 5: "We are being told over and over again that the world was lied to, the American people were lied to, the Congress were lied to because we were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction... I remember [when President Clinton was in office] going to S-407 in this building...where we go to receive confidential, highly classified briefings from administration officials... I remember sitting there and listening to Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State, outline for us in detail the reasons we had to attack Iraq... President Clinton...was even more pointed in his public statements of the fact that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. In the [then] President's phrase, 'Saddam Hussein will surely use them'... As it turned out, the [Clinton] administration changed its mind and moved away... They backed off."

US Republican Senator John McCain, article in the Washington Post entitled 'Past the Point of Justifying', June 15: "Like many Americans, I am surprised that we have yet to locate the weapons of mass destruction that all of us, Republican and Democrat, expected to find immediately in Iraq. But do critics really believe that Saddam Hussein disposed of his weapons and dismantled weapons programmes while fooling every major intelligence service on Earth, generations of UN inspectors, three US Presidents and five Secretaries of Defense into believing he possessed them, in one of the most costly and irrational gambles in history?"

US Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, June 5: "What amazes me is that the President himself is not clamouring for an investigation. It is his integrity that is on the line. It is his truthfulness that is being questioned. It is his leadership that has come under scrutiny. And yet he has raised no question, expressed no curiosity about the strange turn of events in Iraq, expressed no anger that he might have been misled. How is it that the President, who was so adamant about the dangers of WMD, has expressed no concern about the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?"

US Senator John Kerry, a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, June 18: "I will not let the President off the hook throughout this [2004 Presidential] campaign with respect to America's credibility and [his] credibility to me, because if he lied, he lied to me personally. I believe I can hold President Bush accountable if they have misled us..."

US Representative Jane Harman, senior Democratic member of House Intelligence Committee, May 30: "This could conceivably be the greatest intelligence hoax of all time. I doubt it, but we have to ask. It [the existence of Iraqi WMD] was the moral justification for the war. I think the world is owed an accounting."

US Representative Dennis Kucinich, a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, June 22: "We knew there weren't any weapons of mass destruction... Lying to the American people is a weapon of mass deception, Mr. Bush."

Carol Moseley Braun, a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, June 22: "[This was] a war of choice and not necessity...[that] put young American men and women in harm's way for no good reason..."

Reverend Al Sharpton, a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, June 22: "Mr. Bush led us in saying there were weapons of mass destruction that we cannot find... [Former President Bill Clinton] would have been impeached..."

Robert Einhorn, senior State Department official under President Clinton, May 12: "The administration worked very hard to find information that supported its case for military action, although I don't think it consciously fabricated information."

Stansfield Turner, former CIA Director, June 18: "There is no question in my mind [that administration officials] distorted the situation [with regard to WMD], either because they had bad intelligence or because they misinterpreted it. ... [They now appear guilty of] overstretching the facts..."

Retired Air Force General Buster Glosson, adviser to the CIA on Iraqi WMD programmes in the 1990s, June 16: "Absolutely, Iraq had WMDs... The only question is what weapons or precursors did they ship out of the country or destroy immediately prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom... We need to be patient, and the results will speak for themselves. Once total security is established in Iraq and the shadow of Saddam removed, the Iraqi people will provide the WMD information for the world to see. That will be a very humbling day for the rush-to-judgment naysayers."

David Albright, President of the Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS), May 12: "We can [already] conclude that the large number of deployed chemical weapons the administration said that Iraq had are not there. We can also conclude that Iraq's nuclear weapons programme is not nearly as sophisticated as the administration claimed..."

Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), May 12: "Was it a massive intelligence failure? Was it intentional manipulation of information by the Bush administration? Or were the weapons somehow destroyed or slipped out of Iraq? I think it's safe to say the weapons do not exist in the quantities claimed by the administration...and [that] there simply was not the imminent strategic threat that the President cited as his main cause for going to war..."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, June 7: "There was no doctoring of intelligence advice by the government I lead... The advice was...carefully based on the information that properly flowed to the Australian intelligence agency by virtue of the very close intelligence links we have with the United States and the United Kingdom. I remain of the view that there will be evidence ultimately emerging of weapons of mass destruction to which we referred before the war started."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, June 26: "Russia also thought that Iraq might possess weapons of mass destruction... We consider that this disarmament dossier must be closed."

Sergei Lavrov, Russian Ambassador to the UN, June 3: "It's not about whether you have them [UNMOVIC and the IAEA] back or have them out, it's about substance... We don't want the current security problems and political hustling inside Iraq to result in pieces of the WMD programmes to get into the wrong hands..."

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, July 13: "Nobody was in any doubt about the threat posed by Saddam... When we see the Iraqi people making at last the first tentative steps towards self-government...and when the United Nations representative is already talking about 300,000 people in mass graves, then I hope that at least one thing that we can all agree on [is that] the world is more secure, Iraq is a better place."

Prime Minister Blair, July 6: "The idea that I, or anyone else in my position, frankly, would start altering intelligence evidence or saying to the intelligence services 'I am going to insert this', is absurd... You could not make a more serious charge against a Prime Minister."

UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon, June 17: "We do have to demonstrate to the world that these weapons of mass destruction are there in Iraq... What Saddam Hussein did in the period from the start of the renewed UN weapons inspection [process] was...to separate out the different [WMD] elements, to hide them, scatter them across Iraq, to put them in all sorts of unusual and unconventional places... He had six months or more in which to hide weapons of mass destruction - we've had nothing like that amount of time in which to make these investigations. ... We're confident about that [finding them], otherwise, I assure you, we would not keep repeating this..."

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: Draft of new UN resolution on Iraq, The Guardian, May 9; Security Council receives resolution on Iraq, to hold more discussions next week, UN News Service, May 9; Seven nuclear sites looted, Washington Post, May 10; Frustrated, US arms team to leave Iraq, Washington Post, May 11; Radioactive material found at a test site near Baghdad, New York Times, May 11; US offers rewards in Iraq weapons hunt, Associated Press, May 11; Here's the way to find the weapons, by David Albright, Washington Post, May 11; Criticism grows at US failure to find Iraqi weapons, Reuters, May 12; Proposed UN resolution would help Iraqis build their own future, US Department of State (Washington File), May 12, http://usinfo.state.gov; US troops find second biological weapons trailer near Mosul, Washington Post, May 13; Transcript - Powell reiterates US wants to lift UN Iraq sanctions, Washington File, May 15; Transcript - Powell on Russian TV discusses Chechnya, Iraq, Washington File, May 16; IAEA calls for urgent action on nuclear situation in Iraq, IAEA Press Release, PR 2003/06, May 19, http://www.iaea.org; ElBaradei speaks at Tufts, Tufts e-news, May 19, http://enews.tufts.edu; IAEA and US discuss sending nuclear inspectors to Iraq, Agence France Presse, May 21; US, IAEA negotiate sending teams to Iraq, Washington Post, May 21; Transcript - Security Council ends economic sanctions on Iraq, Washington File, May 22; Statement by the President, The White House, May 22; Security Council lifts sanctions on Iraq, approves UN role, calls for appointment of Secretary-General's Special Representative, UN Press Release SC/7765, May 22; Secretary-General pledges UN support to Iraq in 'complex and difficult' tasks ahead, in message to Security Council, UN Press Release SG/SM/8715, May 22; Secretary-General's statement to the Security Council following adoption of resolution 1483 on Iraq, May 22, 2003, UN website, http://www.un.org; Annan pledges full UN support in helping Iraqis regain national sovereignty, UN News Service, May 22; Security Council approves interim arrangements, UN role in Iraq, lifts sanctions, UN News Service, May 22; Security Council members welcome newfound unity and UN role in Iraq, UN News Service, May 22; The situation between Iraq and Kuwait - UK explanation of vote, UK Mission to the UN, May 22, http://www.ukun.org; Remarks by Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov, at the official UN Security Council meeting, May 22, 2003, Russian Foreign Ministry transcript; UN votes to lift sanctions by 14-0, Reuters, May 22; Blix suspects Iraq may not have WMD, The Straits Times, May 23; UN nuclear inspectors to return to Iraq, Associated Press, May 26; Vieira de Mello named to head UN operations in Iraq, Washington File, May 27; UN nuclear inspection team to visit Iraq this week, Agence France Presse, May 27; Text - CIA report details Iraqi mobile biological weapons labs, Washington File, May 28; US choice of disarmament to justify Iraq was political - Wolfowitz, Agence France Presse, May 29; US claims Iranian interference in Iraq - Blair says weapons will be found, Agence France Presse, May 30; New WMD survey group to begin operation in Iraq soon, Washington File, May 30; Excerpts from the First Marine Expeditionary Force Commander live briefing from Iraq, May 30, 2003, Council for a Livable World (CLW), http://www.clw.org; Thirteenth quarterly report of the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in accordance with paragraph 12 of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999), UN Security Council Document S/2003/580, May 30; Transcript - Powell interview on Italian TV, says Iraq WMD will be found, Washington File, June 2; Transcript - Wolfowitz highlights Saddam Hussein's terrorist links, Washington File, June 2; Blix to brief Security Council on Iraq disarmament on Thursday, Agence France Presse, June 3; Failure to find weapons of mass destruction revives Asia's war debate, Washington Post, June 3; The perception of deception - where are the Iraqi weapons, remarks on the floor of the US Senate by Robert Byrd, June 5, 2003, CLW website; US does not rule out future role for UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, Washington File, June 5; Text - Bush says US will 'reveal the truth' about WMD in Iraq, Washington File, June 5; UN inspectors found no evidence of prohibited weapons programmes as of 18 March withdrawal, Hans Blix tells Security Council, UN Press Release SC/7777, June 5; Still no conclusions about existence of Iraq's weapons, Blix tells Security Council, UN News Service, June 5; On UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix's report to the UN Security Council, Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 1343-06-06-2003, June 6; Iraq - UN inspectors arrive to check on reports of nuclear looting, UN News Service, June 6; Senator Bennett defends administration on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Washington File, June 6; UN arms inspectors prepare to inspect nuclear site as arms debate widens, Agence France Presse, June 7; UN experts inspect nuclear site - ambush kills US soldier, Agence France Presse, June 7; Transcript - Powell says there can be 'no question' Iraq had weapons, Washington File, June 8; One last warning from the man who made an enemy of Bush, The Guardian, June 11; Blix hits out at 'bastards' in Pentagon, Agence France Presse, June 11; Blair won't appear before UK Iraq panel, Associated Press, June 11; Text - CIA taps David Kay to advise in search for Iraq's WMD, Washington File, June 12; Blix warns against use of force based on unconfirmed intelligence, Agence France Presse, June 12; Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds, The Observer, June 15; Past the point of justifying, by Senator John McCain, Washington Post, June 15; Retired General confident Iraqi weapons will be found, Washington Times, June 16; An interview with Hans Blix, Arms Control Today, June 16, http://www.armscontrol.org; Blix takes aim at Saddam over failure to avert war, Agence France Presse, June 17; Ex-ministers attack weapons claims, BBC News Online, June 17; Britain says banned weapons must be found in Iraq, Agence France Presse, June 17; Britain waged war on 'suggestible' data - Cook, Agence France Presse, June 17; Ex-CIA Director says administration stretched facts on Iraq, USA Today, June 18; Journalist defends weapons claims, BBC News Online, June 19; Senators reject Kerry's claim Bush misled US, Washington Times, June 18; IAEA mum on report looted Iraqi uranium found, Reuters, June 21; IAEA team accounts for most of missing Tuwaitha material, ElBaradei says, Global Security Newswire, June 23; Straw says dossier was 'embarrassing', BBC News Online, June 24; Transcript - Iran, Syria should join peace process, says Powell, Washington File, June 26; Agency disputes view of trailers as labs, New York Times, June 26; Iraqi scientist gives up 12-year-old nuclear parts, Reuters, June 26; Iraqi scientist's information seen supporting US WMD claim, Washington File, June 26; IAEA - centrifuge parts not evidence of 'smoking gun', CNN.com, June 26; Iraqi scientist turns over nuclear plans, parts, Washington Post, June 26; Putin and Blair say scars healing on Iraq, Reuters, June 26; Campbell claims BBC lied over Iraq 'dodgy dossier', The Guardian, June 26; Transcript - Powell confident mobile labs in Iraq for biological weapons, Washington File, June 27; Iraq's real weapons threat, by Rolf Ekeus, Washington Post, June 29; As Blix leaves office, Annan lauds UN arms inspector's 'steadfast integrity', UN News Service, June 30; International response - Blix will chair new WMD panel, Global Security Newswire, July 3; Hans Blix to be Chairman of international commission on weapons of mass destruction, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release, http://www.regeringen.se, July 3; Blix would lead international WMD panel, Associated Press, July 3; Blair fury at BBC dossier story, BBC News Online, July 6; Blair calls BBC's WMD report 'absurd', Associated Press, July 6; What I didn't find in Africa, by Joseph C. Wilson, New York Times, July 6; CIA investigator debunks report of Niger uranium sales to Iraq, Agence France Presse, July 6; Iraq weapons report unveiled, BBC News Online, July 7; Iraq report - key excerpts, BBC News Online, July 7; The decision to go to war in Iraq, UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2002-03, released July 7; Jack Straw welcomes FAC opinion on Iraq dossier, July 7, 2003, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website, http://www.fco.gov.uk; White House backs off Iraqi uranium claim, Agence France Presse, July 8; Dems urge probe of Iraqi uranium claim, Associated Press, July 8; White House says Iraq uranium claim forged, Reuters, July 8; Blair fights back in Iraq WMD row, Reuters, July 8; Blair defends war, sidestepping issue of faulty intelligence, New York Times, July 9; Bush 'absolutely confident' of his decision on Iraq, Washington File, July 9; Bush mea culpa prompts call for probe, Associated Press, July 9; Senior govt officials doubt Iraqi WMD exist, Agence France Presse, July 10; Iraq weapons 'unlikely to be found', BBC News Online, July 10; Bush - CIA approved State of Union speech, Associated Press, July 11; Democrats say heads should roll over Iraq intelligence contretemps, Agence France Presse, July 11; CIA Director Tenet accepts blame for Iraq passage in Bush speech, Washington File, July 12; CIA govt uranium reference cut in Oct., Washington Post, July 13; Rumsfeld briefs on Iraq, North Korea, Liberia situations, Washington File, July 13; Blair ignored CIA weapons warning, The Observer, July 13; Britain denies US rift over Iraq intelligence, Reuters, July 13; Blair made WMD mistake says Blix, BBC News Online, July 13; Advisers downplay Bush uranium claim, Associated Press, July 14; PM made a 'fundamental error' on Iraq, The Independent, July 14; Two-thirds of voters feel Blair misled them over Iraq war, Agence France Presse, July 14; Weapons expert had slashed wrist, BBC News Online, July 19; BBC says Kelly was weapons source, BBC News Online, July 20; Judge to decode scope of Kelly inquiry, BBC News Online, July 21.

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