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December 15, 2006

UK Knew Iraq Had No WMD Iraq

UK's Independent has published testimony given by Carne Ross in 2004 to the Butler Inquiry that looked at pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMD leading up to the war. It's damning. The UK knew Iraq had no WMD and had known for years. And in discussions with their US counterparts, it was apparent that the US knew as well. An excerpt:

I am in the Senior Management Structure of the FCO [UK's ministry of foreign affairs]...I was First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002. I was responsible for Iraq policy in the mission, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC.

During that time, I helped negotiate several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, including resolution 1284 which, inter alia, established UNMOVIC (an acronym I coined late one New York night during the year-long negotiation). I took part in policy debates within HMG and in particular with the US government. I attended many policy discussions on Iraq with the US State Department in Washington, New York and London. [...]

I read the available UK and US intelligence on Iraq every working day for the four and a half years of my posting. This daily briefing would often comprise a thick folder of material, both humint and sigint. I also talked often and at length about Iraq's WMD to the international experts who comprised the inspectors of UNSCOM/UNMOVIC, whose views I would report to London. In addition, I was on many occasions asked to offer views in contribution to Cabinet Office assessments, including the famous WMD dossier (whose preparation began some time before my departure in June 2002).

During my posting, at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly-held view among the officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had been effectively contained. I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed). (At the same time, we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that "regime change" was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.)

Any assessment of threat has to include both capabilities and intent. Iraq's capabilities in WMD were moot: many of the UN's weapons inspectors (who, contrary to popular depiction, were impressive and professional) would tell me that they believed Iraq had no significant materiel. With the exception of some unaccounted-for Scud missiles, there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW, BW or nuclear material. [...]

Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited. There were approx 12 or so unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's airforce was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using Iraqi WMD (I do not recall any occasion when the question of a terrorist connection was even raised in UK/US discussions or UK internal debates). [...]

I quizzed my colleagues in the FCO and MOD [Ministry of Defense] working on Iraq on several occasions about the threat assessment in the run-up to the war. None told me that any new evidence had emerged to change our assessment; what had changed was the government's determination to present available evidence in a different light. I discussed this at some length with David Kelly in late 2002, who agreed that the Number 10 WMD dossier was overstated.

The claims that the White House was misled by an "intelligence failure" on Iraqi WMD have always been ridiculous on their face. From the first Gulf War on, the US had complete control of Iraqi airspace and constantly monitored Iraq from both aircraft and satellites. UN inspectors installed a variety of highly sensitive and sophisticated detectors on the ground that monitored the air for even the tiniest traces of chemicals associated with WMD development. The US and UK tightly controlled imports into Iraq. As Scott Ritter has explained in detail — but nobody listens — UN inspections were thorough and highly technical operations. Etc., etc.

This testimony by Carne Ross is confirmation. It deserves to be treated as a bombshell, but of course it won't be, not here in the US anyway.

Posted by Jonathan at December 15, 2006 03:40 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

Ah, but the White House *was* misled by a failure of intelligence.

Not military or diplomatic intelligence, that is, but just, well, intelligence.

Posted by: LarryE at December 17, 2006 02:12 AM