by Chris Ames
This page on the Hutton Inquiry website provides a great deal of detail on the redrafting of the September 2002 Iraq dossier, including the dates and times that drafts of Tony Blair’s foreword were circulated.
“I am in no doubt that the threat is serious, and current; that he has made progress on WMD, and that he has to be stopped; that he does not want the UN inspectors in precisely because he has a great deal to hide.”
But Saddam had already agreed to the return of UN inspectors. For example, at 02.39 that morning, the Guardian had reported that:
“Saddam Hussein last night caved in and agreed to the unconditional return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.”
“I am in no doubt that the threat is serious, and current; that he has made progress on WMD, and that he has to be stopped.”
Blair’s (Campbell’s) conviction that Saddam “does not want the UN inspectors in precisely because he has a great deal to hide” had evaporated. At the same time Campbell sent (nominal) dossier author John Scarlett a note in which he said:
“In light of the last 24 hours, I think we should make more of the point about current concealment plans.”
In the space of a few hours, the UK government had gone from claiming that Saddam would not let inspectors in because he had something to hide to claiming that he would let the inspectors in and hide it anyway. It wasn’t as if they didn’t see it coming: the leaked March 2002 Cabinet Office options paper, which the Inquiry has failed to publish, based plans for “regime change” on an expectation that:
“A refusal to admit (U)N inspectors, or their admission and subsequent likely frustration, which resulted in an appropriate finding by the Security Council could provide the justification for military action.”
What a shame neither the Security Council nor the inspectors could be persuaded that the inspectors were being frustrated. But then the options paper, which describe the intelligence on Iraq’s wmd as “poor” seems not to have considered the possibility that Iraq might not have any wmd to hide.