Iraq had no WMD: the final verdict
Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday September 18, 2004
The comprehensive 15-month search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has concluded that the only chemical or biological agents that Saddam Hussein's regime was working on before last year's invasion were small quantities of poisons, most likely for use in assassinations.
A draft of the Iraq Survey Group's final report circulating in Washington found no sign of the alleged illegal stockpiles that the US and Britain presented as the justification for going to war, nor did it find any evidence of efforts to reconstitute Iraq's nuclear weapons programme.
It also appears to play down an interim report which suggested there was evidence that Iraq was developing "test amounts" of ricin for use in weapons. Instead, the ISG report says in its conclusion that there was evidence to suggest the Iraqi regime planned to restart its illegal weapons programmes if UN sanctions were lifted.
Charles Duelfer, the head of the ISG, has said he intends to deliver his final report by the end of the month. It is likely to become a heated issue in the election campaign.
President George Bush now admits that stockpiles have not been found in Iraq but claimed as recently as Thursday that "Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons, and he could have passed that capability on to the enemy".
The draft Duelfer report, according to the New York Times, finds no evidence of a capability, but only of an intention to rebuild that capability once the UN embargo had been removed and Iraq was no longer the target of intense international scrutiny.The finding adds weight to Mr Bush's assertions on the long-term danger posed by the former Iraqi leader, but it also suggests that, contrary to the administration's claims, diplomacy and containment were working prior to the invasion.
The draft report was handed to British, US and Australian experts at a meeting in London earlier this month, according to the New York Times. It largely confirms the findings of Mr Duelfer's predecessor, David Kay, who concluded "we were almost all wrong" in thinking Saddam had stockpiled weapons. The Duelfer report goes into greater detail.
Mr Kay's earlier findings mentioned the existence of a network of laboratories run by the Iraqi intelligence service, and suggested that the regime could be producing "test amounts" of chemical weapons and researching the use of ricin in weapons.
Subsequent inspections of the clandestine labs, under Mr Duelfer's leadership, found they were capable of producing small quantities of lethal chemical and biological agents, more useful for assassinations of individuals than for inflicting mass casualties.
Mr Duelfer, according to the draft, does not exclude the possibility that some weapons materials could have been smuggled out of Iraq before the war, a possibility raised by the administration and its supporters. However, the report apparently produces no significant evidence to support the claim. Nor does it find any evidence of any action by the Saddam regime to convert dual-use industrial equipment to weapons production.
"I think we know exactly how this is going to play out," said Joseph Cirincione, a proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"You'll see a very elaborate spin operation. But there's not much new here from what the ISG reported before," he said. "There are still no weapons, no production of weapons and no programmes to begin the production of weapons. What we're left with here is that Saddam Hussein might have had the desire to rebuild the capability to build those weapons."
"Well, lots of people have desire for these weapons. Lots of people have intent. But that's not what we went to war for."
The motives for war, meanwhile, came under fresh scrutiny last night as the Telegraph reported that Tony Blair was warned in Foreign Office papers a year before the invasion of the scale of dealing with a post-Saddam Iraq.
The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, said that if authenticated, the papers "demonstrate that the government agreed with the Bush administration on regime change in Iraq more than a year before military action was taken".
Mr Duelfer, who is reported to still be in Baghdad, did not respond to a request for an interview on the question of WMD yesterday.
Earlier this year, he told the Guardian that he expected his report would leave "some unanswered questions".http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;sessionid=CR12YM0TIODNHQFIQMGCM54AVCBQUJVC?xml=/news/2004/09/18/nwar18.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/09/18/ixportaltop.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=31735
Secret papers show Blair was warned of Iraq chaos
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
Tony Blair was warned a year before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible without keeping large numbers of troops there for "many years", secret government papers reveal.
The documents, seen by The Telegraph, show more clearly than ever the grave reservations expressed by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, over the consequences of a second Gulf war and how prescient his Foreign Office officials were in predicting the ensuing chaos.
They told the Prime Minister that there was a risk of the Iraqi system "reverting to type" after a war, with a future government acquiring the very weapons of mass destruction that an attack would be designed to remove.
The documents further show that the Prime Minister was advised that he would have to "wrong foot" Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, and that British officials believed that President George W Bush merely wanted to complete his father's "unfinished business" in a "grudge match" against Saddam.
But it is the warning of the likely aftermath - more than a year in advance, as Mr Blair was deciding to commit Britain to joining a US-led invasion - that is likely to cause most controversy and embarrassment in both London and Washington.
More than 900 allied troops have been killed in Iraq since the end of the war, 33 of them British. More than 10,000 civilians are believed to have been killed.
At least 13 civilians died yesterday in a suicide bomb attack on a police checkpoint in Baghdad. The Iraqi health ministry said a further 45 civilians had died in US air attacks on Fallujah overnight.
Mr Straw predicted in March 2002 that post-war Iraq would cause major problems, telling Mr Blair in a letter marked "Secret and personal" that no one had a clear idea of what would happen afterwards. "There seems to be a larger hole in this than anything."
Most of the US assessments argued for regime change as a means of eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Mr Straw said.
"But no one has satisfactorily answered how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better. Iraq has no history of democracy so no one has this habit or experience."
Senior ministerial advisers warned bluntly in a "Secret UK Eyes Only" options paper that "the greater investment of Western forces, the greater our control over Iraq's future, but the greater the cost and the longer we would need to stay".
The paper, compiled by the Cabinet Office Overseas and Defence Secretariat, added: "The only certain means to remove Saddam and his elite is to invade and impose a new government, but this would involve nation-building over many years."
Replacing Saddam with another "Sunni strongman" would allow the allies to withdraw their troops quickly. This leader could be persuaded not to seek WMD in exchange for large-scale assistance with reconstruction.
"However, there would then be a strong risk of the Iraqi system reverting to type. Military coup could succeed coup until an autocratic Sunni dictator emerged who protected Sunni interests. With time he could acquire WMD," the paper said.
Even a representative government would be likely to create its own WMD so long as Israel and Iran retained their own arsenals and Palestinian grievances remained unresolved.
But there would be other major problems with a democratic government.
If it were to survive, "it would require the US and others to commit to nation-building for many years. This would entail a substantial international security force."
The documents also show the degree of concern within Whitehall that America was ready to invade Iraq with or without backing from any of its allies.
Sir David Manning, Mr Blair's foreign policy adviser, returned from talks in Washington in mid-March 2002 warning that Mr Bush "still has to find answers to the big questions", which included "what happens on the morning after?".
In a letter to the Prime Minister marked "Secret - strictly personal", he said: "I think there is a real risk that the administration underestimates the difficulties.
"They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it."
The Cabinet Office said that the US believed that the legal basis for war already existed and had lost patience with the policy of containment.
It did not see the war on terrorism as being a major element in American decision-making.
"The swift success of the war in Afghanistan, distrust of UN sanctions and inspections regimes and unfinished business from 1991 are all factors," it added. That view appeared to be shared by Peter Ricketts, the Foreign Office policy director.
There were "real problems" over the alleged threat and what the US was looking to achieve by toppling Saddam, he said. Nothing had changed to make Iraqi WMD more of a threat.
"Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years. Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives. For Iraq, 'regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam."