British policy on Iraq up to 2002, and the factors that influenced it

by Brian Jones

Chris Ames’ account for Comment is Free of the first part of the Iraq Inquiry’s expert seminar on the evolution of international policy up to 2003 focuses mainly on the 12 months immediately before the invasion. The background articles provided by Toby Dodge and George Joffe take a broader view. I found both interesting and they contribute to my understanding of important aspects of the relationship between UK/US and Iraq and its evolution.

From the vantage point I had within Whitehall up to 2003, my interpretation of the evolution of British policy does not differ significantly from that of these academics. Indeed there are strong points of coincidence, especially with respect to the likely wider objectives of sanctions beyond resolving the weapons of mass destruction (wmd) problem. In fact, I go further on this and suggest that the handling of the wmd problem by the US was probably itself about what Washington saw as more important objectives. However, my view may be coloured by my involvement with the specific intelligence background and whether that means that any advantage offered by that viewing platform is offset by any bias arising from my peripheral involvement is something the reader will have to consider. Nonetheless I hope my thoughts add constructively to the picture.

Ames points out that wmd were not much discussed at the seminar, nor are they a major part of the articles but, not surprisingly, my version has them as a constant thread. The following is a discussion of the background as I see it up to 2001, the starting point according to the terms of reference of the Iraq inquiry. To project further into 2002 in this contribution would add volumes and tend to diminish what I believe to be very significant factors that are relevant to the preceding decade.

America’s war

The Iraq war of 2003 belonged to the United States of America and President George W Bush. Britain would not have invaded Iraq alone or in any coalition that did not include the US. Any consideration must recognise this was the context of the British government’s decision to participate in the invasion of Iraq. Professor Clarke’s overheard statement, presumably by someone in government, that “if the Americans are making a strategic error we [the British government] have to make it with them, because of our positioning with the United States”, seems to support to this view. It is a fundamental factor that so easily slips out of sight in heated debates about other reasons why Britain went to war. I suspect that there were many “other reasons” of varying weight but that all of them were dwarfed by the need to keep on-side with the US. This seems to be what Clare Short, a member of the Cabinet at the time, thinks it was all about.

A central thrust of British foreign policy throughout the Cold War was to ensure the US remained fully engaged with the security of western Europe through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The Soviet Union had already annexed much of Eastern Europe and threatened to push its iron curtain further to the west. An enduring feature of Soviet foreign policy was to unravel the transatlantic alliance embodied in NATO which was designed to resist Russian expansion.

By the time Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government came to power in 1979 there had already been clear signs that America’s security and economic interests were shifting away from Europe towards Central and South America, and Asia. The reluctance of the Reagan administration to support Britain in the Falklands war or to consult London over the US military adventure in Grenada were salutary reminders of the changing attitude. In the 1960s and 70s, US Secretaries of State Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger, possibly troubled by a lack of support from Europe over Vietnam, had warned that the US should not be expected to risk its existence in a war to defend Europe. Thatcher redoubled British efforts to maintain US engagement through a policy of remaining resolutely in-step with America on all matters of overlapping foreign policy interest.

The policy persists to this day (and must be a major factor with respect to Afghanistan), and has done so regardless of which parties were/are in power in Westminster and Washington. In the 1980s it included the recognition of Saddam Hussein as the lesser of two evils in his protracted war with Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, and the provision of important elements of support to Iraq until hostilities ceased in 1988. The US and UK governments apparently had accepted that Saddam needed unconventional means to hold back the numerically superior if less professional Iranian forces that threatened to overwhelm Iraq, and seem to have turn a blind eye to his acquisition of at least chemical weapons during this period.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Thatcher was in step with President George H W Bush in offering support when he decided to lead a military coalition of countries to eject Saddam. Military action was mandated by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Although the Iron Lady had been deposed and John Major was prime minister by the time hostilities started, Britain played the main supporting role to the US in the military campaign of 1991.

The likely military significance of Iraq’s existing wmd and missiles had not been considered in any detail by either Britain or the US before the decision to go to war was taken in 1990. But they quickly became an important concern for those involved in prosecuting it. Soon chemical weapons and biological weapons (and the ballistic missiles that might deliver them over longer distances) were an unfamiliar and frightening issue for political and military leaders preparing for the action to come.

Key figures in the Washington hierarchy who found themselves exploring and trying to resolve the potential problems of Iraq’s wmd capability in 1990/91 were the then defense secretary Dick Cheney, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, and two other senior Defense Department officials, Paul Wolfowitz and I Lewis Libby. National security adviser Brent Scowcroft led efforts to prepare for civil defence with the assistance of White House staffer Condoleeza Rice.

From January 1991, the coalition forces battered the military infrastructure of Iraq from the air, and there was inevitable collateral damage, before ground forces drove the invader from Kuwait. But the ground battle was halted at the Iraq border. Hostilities were suspended on condition Saddam submitted to stringent cease-fire requirements imposed by the UNSC.

Although Saddam had not used any of his wmd against the coalition, their elimination and the destruction of the related infrastructure was an important element of the terms of the cease-fire. A complication was that the exact status of the capabilities and programmes was not known. UK and US intelligence believed that, by 1991, Iraq possessed not only a mature chemical weapons capability, but also a maturing biological warfare programme that might have produced a few weapons, and intermediate range ballistic missiles. Further, Saddam wanted nuclear weapons and the status of the infrastructure that had been developed to support this quest had also to be determined, and what existed dismantled.

After the dust of war had settled it remained unclear whether Saddam would have resorted to wmd if coalition forces had headed on to Baghdad and his regime had been threatened. The possibility focused minds on the problems that could arise if wmd were in the arsenals of minor nations when conflict arose. It brought the subject of asymmetric warfare to the forefront of security planning and, despite its growing disenchantment with formal international arms control treaties, conventions and regimes, there appeared to be a great determination on the part of the US to demonstrate that wmd could be controlled, beginning with Iraq.

Those charged with accomplishing Security Council directives, especially the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) that was established specifically to deal with Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles with a range of over 150km (1) had an impossible task. Although a few of us in Whitehall argued this, a powerful majority appeared not to accept the point (2). Most coalition partners now diminished their already limited support, but Britain remained resolutely engaged with the US not only in the task of finding, destroying and then constraining Iraq’s wmd stockpiles and programmes, but also establishing and enforcing “no-fly” zones created to limit Saddam’s repressive activity against Shia and Kurdish communities.

It is not clear whether the British government understood US motives at this time. It has recently become increasingly clear that, through the 1990s, the US focus in Iraq was about much more than the elimination of its wmd capabilities and potential (3). It may even have been that from the outset Washington saw the wmd issue as a means of achieving regime change. (Of course, to openly represent it as such would have diminished international support). Alternatively, it could have been a device for keeping Saddam “in a box” and his regime under some degree of control, and indeed the two things were entirely compatible.

For either purpose the US would have had an interest in delaying the resolution of the wmd issue until Saddam had gone (4). Were these possibilities discussed between the UK and US governments? To most in UK, within and outside government, the emphasis appeared to be simply on eliminating Iraq’s wmd capabilities. In any case, although there were some breakthroughs, successive Iraqi “full, final and complete declarations” failed to satisfy the US and UK governments and the matter remained unresolved.

Al Qaeda, al Shifa and Desert Fox

In 1998, the new Labour government of Tony Blair was forced to make difficult decisions about Iraq and the UK/US relationship. President Bill Clinton, under some specific pressure from the Republican opposition to take greater advantage of America’s new authority as the worlds only superpower, and somewhat weakened by domestic issues, found himself taunted by an increasingly defiant Saddam.

Through the years since the 1991 conflict, Saddam must have come to realise that it was probably his own regime rather than his wmd ambitions that was in America’s sights. Now, the Iraqi leader may have sensed a weakness on the part of the US President and he demanded the exclusion of American “spies” from UNSCOM and IAEA inspection teams, forcing the withdrawal of all inspectors.

Meanwhile, on 7 August 1998, al Qaeda sponsored vehicle bomb attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed over 200 people, including many Americans. A firm US response was inevitable. What happened over the next few months portended, on a smaller scale, what would happen in the wake of the al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001.

First, al Qaeda camps were attacked with cruise missiles in the “safe haven” it enjoyed in Afghanistan. Also, a tenuous link was “created” by Washington between Iraq, al Qaeda, Sudan, and chemical weapons, resulting in the destruction of the al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum. This facility was said to be producing chemical weapons based on Iraqi recipes.

The decision to make missile strikes against al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan was founded on sound intelligence. The attack against al Shifa was not. The allegation concerning the production of the nerve agent VX in Sudan later collapsed and the mistake was eventually acknowledged by the US and full compensation paid. However, at the time, Tony Blair declared unconditional support for Clinton’s anti-terrorist raids, including the al Shifa blunder. There had been no independent British intelligence assessment to support the attack on the Sudanese plant.

Later in the year, action was taken directly against Iraq in Operation Desert Fox (5). In December, Blair ordered UK participation in a US air assault. Its ostensible aim was to eliminate Saddam’s wmd programmes. But British intelligence could not identify any facilities related unambiguously to an active wmd programme, and was unable to suggest targets of this sort with confidence. Targeting was directed by the US. Presumably, even at this early stage, Blair had made the decision that the UK would support any and all US action against Iraq. He encountered no significant opposition from parliament.

The Iraq Survey Group confirmed when it reported in 2004 , what the British government quietly conceded in 1999 (6) – that there was no active wmd programme in Iraq when Operation Desert Fox took place.

Between 1998 and 2001, Britain was engaged with the United States in trying to maintain sanctions against Iraq in the face of growing opposition, especially from France and Russia. Pressure to ease sanctions also derived from the increasing evidence of the humanitarian crisis that had developed for the vast majority of the Iraqi population. In its early months, the administration of George W Bush gave some attention through Colin Powell’s State Department to “smarten” the sanctions regime in such a way as to reinforce wmd related controls whilst easing back in areas which might bring improvements to the lot of the long suffering majority in Iraq. Then there was 9/11.

After 9/11, Tony Blair believed it was important to offer British support and military assistance when President George W Bush decided to destroy al Qaeda in Afghanistan and remove the Taliban government that had given it shelter. Blair was determined to prevent the US becoming isolated, and to try and counter any notion that Islam itself was the target, and he worked hard to rally support around the world. In order to justify this policy in Britain and to convince the global community, the government issued a dossier called “Responsibility for the terrorist atrocities in the United States, 11 September 2001”. It was not specifically endorsed by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) but included a fair reflection of the intelligence background on al Qaeda’s desire to acquire wmd. It paved the way for British military action in Afghanistan and probably made an important contribution to the generally sympathetic international response to the US led operation.

By the end of the year the Taliban had lost its grip on power in Afghanistan, and Iraq moved into the focus of the Bush administration.


1 The existing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), based in Vienna, which already had responsibility for the oversight of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and its related safeguards agreements, was required to deal with the nuclear weapons programme. Iraq had signed and ratified the NPT. Iraq was not a state party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention which, in any case had no standing oversight authority. The Chemical Weapons Convention and its oversight body, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), now based in the Hague, did not exist in 1991.

2 Our message on this was not a popular one because of the broader implication for arms control and the implicit suggestion that the Gulf war victory was less complete than the politicians wished it to appear.

3 Two US officials who served UNSCOM in the 1990s have separately suggested this. See Scott Ritter, Iraq Confidential (I B Taurus & Co Ltd, London and New York, 2005) pp 4-5, and Charles Duelfer, Hide and Seek (Public Affairs, New York, 2009) pp 86-87, p468. President Clinton eventually signed the Iraq Liberation Act on 31 October, 1998 giving tangible substance to an undeclared policy goal that had apparently existed since 1991.

4 Charles Duelfer, a US State Department official who led the Iraq Survey Groups investigation into Iraq’s WMD from February 2004 until its conclusion, thinks this was the case (see Duelfer at footnote 3, above, pp.86-7, p468). He believed WMD issues were “a surrogate for national policies between Washington and Baghdad” in the 1990s and again in 2002-3.

5 There are also hints that, as was to happen in 2002-3, efforts were made to condition public opinion to support military action against Baghdad in the period leading up to the military attacks in late 1998, through an MI6 led operation called “Mass Appeal. See “Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction”, Chairman The Rt Hon The Lord Butler of Brockwell, HC 898, The Stationery Office, London, 14 July 2004 , pp 120-1 and 156. See also See Scott Ritter, Iraq Confidential (I B Taurus & Co Ltd, London and New York, 2005) p 280.

6 See the official publication “Defending against the threat from Biological and Chemical Weapons”, Ministry of Defence 7/99, July 1999 pages 5-8.

9 comments to this article

  1. andrewsimon

    on November 10, 2009 at 6:16 pm -

    Dr Jones –

    (With apologies for not being able to write this in ‘one chunk’, as with my earlier reply to Stan Rosenthal I will probably have to post my reply as several (2 or 3) pieces over the next couple of days or so. This is partly as a result of having to locate the correct source material, as well as because of other limitations concerning the availability of currently free keyboard time.)

    Your posting here is a welcome addition to the gathering body of informed opinion specifically commenting upon important (and perhaps less-well discussed) aspects of the varying relationships between the US, the UK and Iraq throughout the period of recent history. You do though make one particular specific assertion which currently stands unproven and which may also have considerable implications in assessing the full range of US motivations towards seeing Saddam Hussein removed from power, as well as providing a much deeper understanding of certain Iraqi actions relating to the unilateral destruction (conducted outside of the requirements of R.687) and otherwise less-than-full accounting of certain proscribed items.

    “Although Saddam had not used any of his wmd against the coalition…”

    My research indicates that there is very strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that Iraq did in fact use a limited amount of non-conventional weaponry during the 1991 Gulf conflict. One of the more major repeated claims of the September dossier was the supposed ‘fact’ that, according to the 1999-2002 assessments of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Iraq had retained up to 20 al-Hussein SCUD missiles from the time of the 1991 Gulf War. Unlike the ’45 minutes’ claim, this particular assertion of the dossier has never been subjected to quite the same degree of close scrutiny.

    If it was indeed the case that some of the SCUD missiles launched into Saudi Arabia in 1991 were chemically-loaded then this particular aspect of that conflict has been widely overlooked. The Ministry of Defence’s position on this issue has been for many years now that: “There is no confirmed evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq during the Gulf conflict.”

    Iraq made a declaration to UNSCOM that it had used 93 of its SCUD missiles during the first Gulf conflict, a figure also contained in the Downing Street dossier. In its July 2000 document, ‘A review of UK Forces Chemical Warfare Agent Alerts during the 1991 Gulf Conflict‘, the MoD stated that Iraq had launched 72 SCUD missiles in January 1991 and 30 more during the following month. This account therefore suggested a total of 102 missiles as having been fired during the period of the UN-mandated Coalition military operations to liberate Kuwait from its Iraqi occupiers.

    UNSCOM documents reveal that Iraq accounted for 817 of its 819 Soviet supplied SCUD missiles, but that other questions still remained about a further (then) seven indigenously produced “training” missiles. The declared unilateral destruction of these missiles was never proven, and further questions arose concerning the equipping of Iraq’s then newly-formed Brigade-sized Unit 223 (224?), which was charged with responsibility for Iraq’s operational missile assets during the 1991 Gulf War. Further to this, at the Special Commission’s Technical Evaluation Meeting on proscribed missile warheads held in Baghdad on 1-6 February 1998, Iraq admitted that it could not account for nine SCUD “special” chemical-capable warheads, other examples of which had been found by UNSCOM to contain either the nerve agent sarin or one component of the Iraqi binary chemical warfare compound. (Also revealed by this meeting was the claimed fact that all similar Iraqi warheads, irrespective of fill, had been painted the same way so as to create indeterminacy, and that: “…this led the missile force not to think that there are Iraqi special warheads.”)

    One of the last actions of Richard Butler as Executive Chairman of UNSCOM was in November 1998 to send a letter to Tariq Aziz, then Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, requesting that documents concerning the creation and armament of Missile Unit 223/224 be handed over to the Acting Director of the Baghdad Monitoring and Verification Centre. The correct documents were not subsequently forthcoming, and UNSCOM pulled its staff out of Iraq for the last time less than one month later. This issue then remained outstanding right up to the Iraq invasion of 2003. The Unit 223/224 documents were included in the list of still-to-be-accounted for WMD-related items detailed in both UNMOVIC’s ‘Cluster Document‘ of 6 March 2003 and its ‘Draft Work Programme‘ of 17 March 2003.

    From the Cluster Document – UNRESOLVED DISARMAMENT ISSUES – IRAQ’S PROSCRIBED WEAPONS PROGRAMMES (N.B. Published some two weeks before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.


    Although UNSCOM reported that all but two of the 819 declared imported Scud-B combat missiles had been “effectively” accounted for, the stated consumption of some missiles could not be independently verified. This was the case for 14 Scud-B missiles as targets in a missile interception project. While such use is supported by some documentation contained in the so-called Scud files, it is questionable whether Iraq would have really used, what were at that time, valuable operational assets in the pursuit of such a project. Furthermore, available data could only corroborate a very small number of declared missile launches at that time. It cannot be excluded that Iraq retained a certain numbers of the missiles. The additional information Iraq provided on 8 February 2003 on the missile interception project does not resolve the outstanding questions.


    In order to address the broader question of the existence of a possible Scud-type missile force, Iraq should provide specific documentation in support of its declarations. An example would be the two reports written by the missile force commander on 30 January 1991 and in May 1991 that, on the basis of Iraq’s own declarations and outside information, are known to exist. The first report could help clarify the state of the combat missile force at the end of the Gulf War.

    From the Draft Work Programme:

    – Provide missile related documentation and material, including the two reports written by the missile force commander on 30 January 1991 and in May 1991; videotapes and tracking data concerning the interception missile project; the two diaries that relate to the unilateral destruction of the proscribed missile propellants; and any remaining Scud-B guidance and control drawings, documentation and hardware.

    The UNMOVIC Cluster Document states: “It cannot be excluded that Iraq retained a certain numbers of the missiles.” Another possible explanation for these accounting anomalies, and also for Iraq’s unwillingness to provide the evidence to prove the final disposition of these ‘missing’ missiles, is the suggestion that they were illegally used in 1991, and that Iraq did not want to admit to this for fear of primarily-US retribution possibly involving invocation of the 1925 Geneva (poison gas) Protocol, to which Iraq was a signatory, and also because any future International indictment for chemical weapon war crimes might be directed towards Iraq’s leadership in person.


    At the beginning of the R.687-mandated weapons inspection process…

  2. andrewsimon

    on November 10, 2009 at 11:45 pm -

    Dr Jones –

    (Part 2)

    At the beginning of the R.687-mandated weapons inspection process Iraq did not properly declare its remaining stocks of SCUD missiles. UNMOVIC’s final ‘Compendium of Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes in the Chemical, Biological and Missile areas’ (published in June 2007) states that Iraq claimed to have unilaterally destroyed 85 of these missiles although this could not be completely verified because only remnants of 83 engines could be positively identified. Iraq’s extended-range SCUD missiles were built in four basic versions, these being H1, H2, H3 and H4, of which only one was built. Iraq declared that its SCUD missile build programme (Project 144) had produced 23 H3 ‘Short’ Al Hussein SCUD missiles. No Short Al Hussein missiles or their components were initially declared to the United Nations, nor were any presented for destruction by UNSCOM in July 1991. Instead, 17 Short Al Hussein missiles were illegally retained and later unilaterally destroyed in secret in late July 1991. The exact number of indigenously produced H3 missiles that were built has never been precisely established. Former UNSCOM lead inspector Scott Ritter stated on 29 January 2003 in relation to these missiles that: “Two were unaccounted for (after the Gulf war) and there was concern there might be seven or eight indigenous ones that we could not account for but were never sure these were operational.”

    Iraq’s unilateral destruction took place during the Summer of 1991. An account of these activities was given in the United Nations Security Council document S/1996/848, dated 11 October 1996, which was the second UNSCOM report given under the requirement of UN Resolution 1051:


    C. Missile area

    17. Over the last five years, the Commission has made considerable progress in the identification and the elimination of Iraq’s proscribed missiles and capabilities. As a result of its initial declarations in April/May 1991, the Commission supervised the destruction of its declared 48 operational missiles, 14 conventional warheads, 6 operational mobile launchers and other support equipment and materials in early July 1991. The destruction of the initially declared proscribed missile production tools, equipment and some facilities was carried out by April 1992. The destruction of the initially declared 30 missile chemical warheads was completed in April 1993.

    18. Through the Commission’s inspection efforts, a number of undisclosed proscribed weapons, equipment and items retained by Iraq were also uncovered. In March 1992, Iraq disclosed that it had concealed from the Commission the greater part of its operational missile force (85 operational missiles, over 130 warheads, both conventional and chemical, 8 operational mobile launchers and missile force support equipment) and a significant amount of other proscribed items and materials. These were alleged to have been unilaterally and secretly destroyed in late July 1991, without allowing the Commission to supervise the destruction, as required by resolution 687 (1991). Since March 1992, the Commission has been able to verify a number of these weapons and items as destroyed, although a full accounting has not been possible. Iraq claimed that the unilateral destruction operations had not been fully documented or recorded.

    As a result of this, further work was undertaken by UNSCOM personnel. By the time of the following UNSCOM report (S/1997/301 dated 11 April 1997) the Commission’s experts could demonstrate that none of the variety of analyses of information provided by Iraq could produce a zero material balance of the proscribed missiles known to have existed at the end of the Gulf War. Furthermore, there remained the outstanding issue of the rationale for the programme of secret destruction by Iraq, as well as for its by-now-admitted diversion of large quantities of missiles, additional components and related production tools which was not pursuant to the requirements of Security Council R.687.

    S/1997/301 goes on to state that:

    As a result of the Commission’s investigations, it had become apparent that Iraq had not presented sufficient evidence to account for the destruction of all proscribed missiles. Iraq’s declarations on the secret destruction were inconsistent with facts established by the Commission. In an attempt to mislead the Commission, Iraq had tried to falsify evidence of this destruction. The Commission’s investigations have also revealed a number of other areas requiring additional explanation and clarification. The Chairman stressed the Commission’s concerns on Iraq’s decision to conduct the secret destruction of the proscribed operational missiles assets in 1991 in violation of resolution 687 (1991). In particular, these concerns related to the political decisions taken to carry out such destruction, dissemination of follow-up orders and the actual implementation of these orders.

    In January 1997, under the supervision of a new inspection team (UNSCOM 177), the earlier excavation of missile remnants was resumed extending this search to the declared sites of the secret destruction.

    UNSCOM issued its fifth report under UN Resolution 1051 (S/1998/332) on 16 April 1998, and this document relates:

    While it is clear that in a number of weapons areas unilateral destruction did take place, again, Iraq’s refusal to provide adequate and verifiable details of that destruction has meant that, up to the present time, the Commission has not been able to verify all of Iraq’s claims with respect to such unilateral destruction.

    and also that with regards to indigenous missile production:

    Iraq was required to provide verifiable declarations on its achievements in indigenous production of proscribed missiles, including a verifiable material balance of their components. The work, in particular in the area of verification of indigenously produced missiles and the unilateral destruction of components acquired for their production, has not yet yielded satisfactory results.

    Warhead issues had been the subject of consideration by a Technical Evaluation Meeting (TEM) that was held in Baghdad from 1 to 6 February 1998. The meeting concluded that the level of verification achieved so far was not satisfactory and stated that further work was required. Iraq’s unilateral destruction activities had taken place at a place called Al- (or An-) Nibai, some 28 miles north-west of Baghdad, and the work focused on activities there. The issues raised by the TEM are complex, but UNSCOM’s basic assertion was:

    Under the category of special warheads, both modified from imported and indigenously produced, as declared by Iraq to have been unilaterally destroyed: The total number of special warheads found is 39-40. At this time 31-32 of them could be counted against the 51 that need to be identified through the examination of remnants i.e. 61%. The remaining 8 warheads were recovered from a destruction pit not previously identified as a site of the unilateral destruction of special warheads.

    Iraq’s own estimate was also given:

    In a comparable category, the Iraqi estimate is at a level of 88% (70 warheads found out of 79 declared) based on accounting of the total quantity of material re-excavated including both remnants of warheads destroyed under UNSCOM supervision and remnants of warheads that Iraq destroyed unilaterally in 1991.

    The TEM raised the issue of the fact that Iraqi warheads had been buried once, and then dug up again and buried for a second time:

    In its commentary note of 1 February, the team identified a major problem with Iraq’s declaration of the unilateral destruction of special warheads. Prior to the TEM, Iraq declared that special warheads had been unilaterally destroyed only in two pits in Nibai (termed the P1 and P6 sites). A considerable amount of remnants of special warheads have recently been recovered from another area (termed the P3 site), approximately 1 kilometre away from the P1/P6 area. Prior to the TEM, Iraq offered an explanation that this had been a result of activities of a farmer who had excavated warhead remnants in the P1/P6 area, transferred and then buried them in the P3 area. The team came to the conclusion that the amount of remnants excavated in the P3 area, their composition and locations of their recovery, were more consistent with this being a separate destruction activity area. If this were the case, it would indicate that more special warheads had been produced and destroyed than were declared by Iraq.

    The record of the TEM then goes on to explain:

    (17.) In response, the Iraqi side offered a new explanation of a preliminary nature. It stated that there was a possibility that a significant amount of chemical warheads (up to 13) had been destroyed at P3 on 11 July 1991. Iraq promised to conduct an investigation of this issue. This preliminary explanation was offered without officially withdrawing the previous one. In the team’s assessment, the new explanation could not explain already known findings at the P3 area and is not consistent with Iraq’s other explanations related to the designs, production and destruction of chemical and biological warheads. Other available evidence still remains unexplained including the types of warheads destroyed, method of destruction, etc.

    18. It should be noted that Iraq’s official declaration on the unilateral destruction in Nibai had previously been corroborated by interviews with all Iraqi personnel who were involved in the destruction activities in Nibai. All of them unanimously supported the statement that all destruction of special warheads had taken place in the P1/P6 area. During the TEM, the Iraqi side did not provide any new individuals who could corroborate the new explanation of destruction activities at P3. The team also noted an obvious contradiction between the new explanation and Iraq’s official statements until recently that an UNSCOM inspection team had actually verified the destruction of 45 special warheads in April 1992, shortly after Iraq declared their unilateral destruction in 1991. In 1992, Iraq presented to this UNSCOM team 43 missile warhead nose cones in the P1/P6 area as evidence of destruction of the 45 special warheads there. At the TEM, the Iraqi side stated that “there had been, with good possibility, due to a reason which is not clear now, a movement of conventional warhead remnants from a nearby destruction pit to where the special warheads were destroyed”. No definite statement was made by the Iraqi delegation whether this “movement” of nose cones had been intended to tamper with evidence of destruction. No factual information has been provided on the related events. Based on available data and Iraq’s explanations, the team could not come to a conclusion whether the special warhead nose cones that had recently been found at P3 were in addition to the 45 special warheads verified by the UNSCOM team in 1992 or were from the same 45 special warheads that Iraq had declared as unilaterally destroyed between 9 and 11 July 1991. Iraq made a statement to the team that the newly recovered special nose cones from P3 were from the 45 declared special warheads.

    The only conclusion that can be drawn here is that for some reason Iraq was trying to account for the same ‘special’ warheads twice over. There are only two possible reasons for this, either it was trying to retain a secret stock of these units (which were never found) or it was trying to disguise another potential hole in the overall accounting sheet for which it could provide no other viable explanation.


    The Iraq Survey Group uncovered no evidence that Iraq retained…

  3. andrewsimon

    on November 12, 2009 at 2:59 am -

    Dr Jones –

    (Part 3)

    The Iraq Survey Group uncovered no evidence that Iraq retained either complete SCUD missiles or their attendant warheads. The ISG final report – the Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD of 24 September 2004 – contains scant details about previous UNSCOM and UNMOVIC concerns about SCUD missile and special warhead issues. There is no mention of the questions that remained about the combat armament of Missile Unit 223/224, and whilst the 1998 Baghdad warhead TEM is noted in the text, no accord is given to the Iraqi admissions acknowledged at that meeting. The ISG final report does make reference to the 1992 43-45 special warheads as highlighted above in the 1998 warhead material balance discussions, but not to the (declared) 196-200 and (recovered or accounted for) 170-180 figures relating to indigenous warhead production as given by UNSCOM in S/1999/94 (STATUS OF THE MATERIAL BALANCES IN THE MISSILE AREA – 29 January 1999). This disparity created a potential total imbalance (at that time) of as many as 16-30 possibly modified-to-special-status warheads.

    UNMOVIC’s March 2003 Cluster Document notes that:

    In February 1998, Iraq declared that, prior to the Gulf War, it had indigenously produced 121 Scud-type warheads. This was discussed during a Technical Evaluation Meeting in 1998 and, although Iraq orally provided information concerning the production of these warheads, it did not support the information with any documentation. UNSCOM could not find remnants for approximately 25 of the declared indigenously produced warheads. UNSCOM was not able to obtain a full picture of Iraq’s warhead production.

    The Cluster Document also details another missile warhead matter dealt with in S/1994/94, insofar as UNSCOM was also not able to account for a further (approximately) 25 Soviet-exported ‘conventional’ (purely explosive) warheads, which Iraq had earlier purchased at the same time as the rest of its original SCUD missile force.


    27. Issues related to remnants of warheads that have not been recovered, but which have been declared by Iraq as unilaterally destroyed (some 25 imported warheads and some 25 Iraqi manufactured warheads), remain outstanding in the accounting of proscribed warheads that Iraq claimed to have destroyed unilaterally.

    The ISG final report does include previously unseen information ostensibly prepared for Iraq by its National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) in support of its 12,000 page CAFCD. This information about SCUD missiles and their associated warheads has been taken at face value by the CIA/ISG, as they seemingly have no further information with which to contend the Iraqi accounting claims. The NMD document, which was never seen by UNSCOM or UNMOVIC, accounts for six as opposed to five indigenously produced warheads. Iraq’s claim was that these were fired at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, but does not in any way clarify the situation as to whether these were originally derived from a special or conventional warhead type. Instead these warheads had concrete warheads which contained a lead plug instead of a fuse, were for a variant of the Al Hussein missile called the Al Hijara, and were said to be purely kinetic energy weapons. Another highlighted discrepancy concerned one imported warhead, although the report noted that this related to internal Iraqi accounting differences, and therefore this issue was not relevant to the overall Iraqi warhead deficit. The UNSCOM questions about the possible existence of seven indigenous missiles (or engines) and UNMOVIC questions about fourteen missiles claimed to have been used in a missile interception project were not addressed at all.

    These combined matters open up the possibility that some of the 25 still-missing conventional warheads might have (a) been indigenously converted into special warheads, or (b) were destroyed in order to create additional wreckage at the P1/P6 site to cover for the fact that other ‘special’ warhead wreckage had been removed from there and then buried at P3 to create the overall impression that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed more warheads than it actually had.

    (TBC – I anticipated making my reply in two or three ‘chunks’. I apologise for the growing length of my reply but I now think that 4 or 5 parts are more likely, as I believe that it is worthwhile outlining a complete précis of the available documentation.)

    In the footnotes of your post you mention that: “President Clinton eventually signed the Iraq Liberation Act on 31 October, 1998 giving tangible substance to an undeclared policy goal that had apparently existed since 1991.”…

  4. Brian Jones

    on November 12, 2009 at 9:40 am -


    I was going to await the end of your epic comment before responding but it occurs to me there are a couple of things I could write at this stage that might inform what you are about to.

    I think the MoD official line, “There is no confirmed evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Iraq during the Gulf conflict” is a more correct one than the phrase I used. It should also encompass biological weapons. (I do not consider ballistic missiles as wmd – just one means amongst many of delivering them, and not a particularly efficient one for CW ot BW unless the warhead is highly sophisticated). The important point from a policy perspective is that the consensus in Washington and Whitehall is that they were not used. I recall reading several accounts over the years that suggest CW or BW might have been the payload of the warheads of one (or more?) missiles fired into Saudi, mainly based on the experiences of individuals, but I cannot recall that any samples taken tested positive or the symptoms experienced matched exclusively to those expected from any known agent. That does not mean none was used but, unless you are going to reveal something specific of which I am unaware, I think we are at “unproven” and “unlikely”. Personally, at this point I still doubt any were used.

    Secondly, you write “You do though make one particular specific assertion which currently stands unproven and which may also have considerable implications in assessing the full range of US motivations towards seeing Saddam Hussein removed from power, …..”. I hope you are going to develop this point (I don’t think you have done so up to now). Had Saddam actually used wmd against the coalition (and it not been suspected at the official level) I can see he is likely to have been keen to conceal it had happened, or been tried and failed. Had the US (or UK) realised it and had sounder evidence than has been released, I doubt they could have kept it secret for over a decade considering the strength of the veterans campaigns and the widespread sympathy for them within and beyond government and the services. Furthermore, it would have been a gift to Clinton and Blair in making their case against in the late 1990s, and again for Blair in 2002/3. Any cover-up could have been blamed on previous administrations.

  5. andrewsimon

    on November 13, 2009 at 1:41 am -

    Dr Jones –

    Thank you for your reply at this point.

    Regarding positive samples being taken, former Royal Air Force Corporal Richard Turnbull told the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in 1995 that his detection equipment indicated the presence of chemical agents at Dhahran on the night of 20/21 January 1991:

    “On the night of 20/21 January 1991 a Scud missile was intercepted by a Patriot missile over Dharran (sic) airfield and the warhead exploded on landing 400-500 yds from our position. Within seconds all the pre-positioned NAIADs and our CAMs were sounding the alarm.”

    The MoD, in its July 2000 ‘Chemical Warfare Agent Alerts’ report, makes mention of these claimed detections but claims that they are not substantiated. The report states:


    89. Whilst one Gulf veteran has recalled that a number of NAIADs alarmed following a SCUD impact in Dhahran on the night of the 19 or 20 January 91, another veteran (the NBC adviser to the RAF Detachment) has no recollection of chemical detections as a result of SCUD impacts at Dhahran.

    90. The documentary evidence shows no indication that the SCUDs fired at Dhahran had anything other than a conventional warhead. There is no record of chemical agent monitors alarming in Dhahran on the night of the 19 or 20 January. Further to this, the HQ BFME log records that an NBC recce team found no CW agents from the SCUD attack.

    91. It is therefore concluded that UK troops were not exposed to CW agents on the night of 19 or 20 January 1991 following a SCUD attack at Dhahran.

    I think it is worth noting here that this denial strictly relates to the night (presumably singular) of 19 or 20 January. The allegations were actually made about events which took place on the following night. I would not necessarily attribute this discrepancy to the fact that a ‘cover-up’ had taken place, although I can see reasons which I will deal with in slightly greater depth later in this series as to why this matter remained unresolved.

    In your second point you state that you hope that I am going to develop the point about whether the SCUD missile attacks may have had “considerable implications in assessing the full range of US motivations towards seeing Saddam Hussein removed from power”. I did intend to begin discussing this aspect in this next part of my posting, so it is only appropriate that I continue from where I left off at the end of the last section…

    (Part 4)

    In the footnotes of your post you mention that: “President Clinton eventually signed the Iraq Liberation Act on 31 October, 1998 giving tangible substance to an undeclared policy goal that had apparently existed since 1991.”

    The undeclared policy goal

    On 15 January 1991 President GHW Bush signed National Security Directive 54. This document authorised US action in the Gulf region to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi occupiers. It also set out a specific warning to Saddam Hussein, although it is unlikely that he was aware of this until 1998 when the document was made public.

    Paragraph 10 states:

    10. Should Iraq resort to using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, be found supporting terrorist acts against U.S. or coalition partners anywhere in the world, or destroy Kuwait’s oil fields, it shall become an explicit objective of the United States to replace the current leadership of Iraq. I also want to preserve the option of authorizing additional punitive actions against Iraq.

    National Security Directives, as they were then known, are presidential missives which are exclusive to the Executive branch of the US administration. There is no doubt that President GW Bush would have been perfectly aware of this stricture, especially bearing in mind his obvious family connection. From his first days in office it is known that he had an intention to see the end of Saddam Hussein’s time in power. According to noted Counterpunch writers Richard Behan and Jason Leopold:


    On January 20, 2001, 29 members of the Project for the New American Century joined the incoming Bush Administration at the highest levels—notably including Richard Cheney as Vice President, Libby as his Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, and Wolfowitz as Rumsfeld’s Deputy. The PNAC triumphed when the National Security Council ten days later, on January 30, legitimized the invasion of Iraq.


    In the book “The Price of Loyalty,” Bush’s former Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill said that the Iraq war was planned just days after the president was sworn into office.

    “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” O’Neill said, adding that going after Saddam Hussein was a priority 10 days after the Bush’s inauguration and eight months before Sept. 11.

    “From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” Ron Suskind, author of The Price of Loyalty, wrote in his book . “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”

    As treasury secretary, O’Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as “Why Saddam?” and “Why now?” were never asked.

    In his inaugural address on January 20, 2001 President Bush also alluded to the possibility of war, although he did not mention Iraq by name.

    “We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors,” Bush said. “The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake – We will defend our allies and our interests.”

    On America’s war

    Much has been written about the supposition that the 2003 invasion was all about oil. This, in part, is supported by the witness evidence which states that former Vice President Dick Cheney’s ‘Energy Task Force’ melded its work with that of the National Security Council. You mention that the key figures in the Washington hierarchy who found worked to resolve the potential problems of Iraq’s WMD capability in 1990/91 were the then defense secretary Dick Cheney, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, and two other DoD officials, Paul Wolfowitz and I Lewis Libby. Those involved in the planning for the 2003 invasion were essentially all the same team, serving the two Bush administrations across the divide of the Clinton years.

    In this respect the US/Iraq imbroglio was (and still is) essentially just one conflict spanning from 1991 to 2003 to today. William J Clinton did not have the same personal involvement in the overall Iraq issue when compared to the Republican presidencies, and had been reasonably content to ensure that Iraqi regime ambitions were kept on a fairly short leash. This action though, as has been noted elsewhere, had some serious down-side deficiencies, particularly relating to the day-to-day fate of ordinary Iraqi citizens.

    It is interesting to note that it was ten years to the exact day between Richard Turnbull’s claimed detections at Dhahran and the start of the new Bush term with the inauguration to office of its high-level PNAC supporters. On the first day of this period Saddam Hussein had declared on Baghdad Radio that: “In the coming period, the response of Iraq will be on a larger scale, using all the means and potential that God has given us and which we have so far only used in part. Our ground forces have not entered the battle so far, and only a small part of our air force has been used. The army’s air force has not been used, nor has the navy.” “The weight and effect of our ready missile force has not yet been applied in full.”

    Much later the Iraq Survey Group published a transcript of Saddam speaking just days before the beginning of the 1991 Coalition action to liberate Kuwait:

    Saddam: I want to make sure that-close the door please [door slams)]-the germ and chemical warheads, as well as the chemical and germ bombs, are available to the “concerned people,” so that in case we ordered an attack, they can do it without missing any of their targets?

    Husayn Kamil: Sir, if you’ll allow me. Some of the chemicals now are distributed, this is according to the last report from the Minister of Defense, which was submitted to you sir. Chemical warheads are stored and are ready at Air Bases, and they know how and when to deal with, as well as arm these heads. Also, some other artillery machines and rockets (missiles) are available from the army.


    Saddam: I want as soon as possible, if we are not transferring the weapons, to issue a clear order to the “concerned people” that the weapon should be in their hands ASAP. I might even give them a “non-return access.” [Translator Comment: to have access to the weapons; to take them with them and not to return them]. I will give them an order stating that at “one moment,” if I’m not there and you don’t hear my voice, you will hear somebody else’s voice, so you can receive the order from him, and then you can go attack your targets. I want the weapons to be distributed to targets; I want Riyadh and Jeddah, which are the biggest Saudi cities with all the decision makers, and the Saudi rulers live there. This is for the germ and chemical weapons.


    Saddam: Also, I want to give a written authorization to the “concerned people” that is signed by me, in case something happens to me. You know this is a life and death issue, all the orders about targets are sealed in writing and authenticated. Furthermore, for the officials from the missile (rockets) authority, you should coordinate with them so that they take the missile to locations. They are to inform the chief of staff, or operations commander deputy, to go to Husayn, Minister of Industry and go with the same necessary procedures. Regarding the chemical weapon [interrupted].

    Husayn Kamil: We are really in good control of it sir.

    Saddam: No, I mean it should be with the “taking action” people.


    Saddam: Where are the most American forces and troops gathered and concentrated?

    Speaker 2: Sir, it is in Khalid Military city “Madinat Khalid,” located 60 kilometers past Hafr Al-Baten in Saudi, where the front General Command and Air Force Command are located. Most of the American army sectors, Sir, are by the coastal side in Al-Dammam, where most of the camp complexes exist.

    Saddam: I want these big gatherings and complexes to be allocated properly and given to the Air Force commander to be added to the above targets of the germs weapons. This should be done by an order to Muzahim. This is by a direct order and it has the green light from me, since this mission doesn’t fall into daily regular operations. I will issue a letter, signed by me, listing the commands and the alternative plans and probabilities of this mission, which should be followed literally.


    Saddam: We will never lower our heads as long as we are alive, even if we have to destroy everybody.

    Virtually every official source which (tentatively) suggests that Iraq did not use (more specifically) chemical weapons in 1991 explains this as being because the Iraq leadership was deterred from such use by the threat of massive US retaliation. In any case it is unlikely that there would have been much solid evidence of any chemical agent attacks (assuming they occurred) because such compounds would drift away with the wind, especially if dispersed at some altitude by either air-bursting warheads or as the result of Patriot missile interception. Most Coalition personnel were well protected with protective suits and masks, and also by a fairly all encompassing air raid warning system. Much of the contemporary record in the form of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical incident desk logs which were drawn up during the 1991 conflict were lost, supposedly when there were placed near an area designated for the shredding and destruction of unwanted records. In short, there is very little information to either support or deny the otherwise generally unmade proposition that Iraq actually did use chemical weapons in 1991, and in so doing thereafter brought into being the unstoppable wrath of the second presidential stage of the Bush family dynasty.

    However, if no such attacks ever happened it is necessary to explain why Iraq went to such lengths to prevent the UN weapons inspection bodies from discovering the whole truth about its SCUD missile activities, when for a very long time it seriously needed to have the overall missile file closed for the considerable betterment of its own external and internal situations. The retention of just a few SCUD missiles would hardly have constituted either a major strategic or tactical advantage for Iraq in the future, and in any case any later use would clearly have indicated Iraqi dissociation from its earlier International responsibilities.


    The question of whether the UK would have been fully knowledgeable about US presidential ambitions and incentives is somewhat moot. A similar question could be asked about the former Iraqi presidency, and no doubt this will be asked both here and at the Inquiry…

  6. andrewsimon

    on November 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm -

    Dr Jones –

    (Part 5 – hopefully the last one!)

    The question of whether the UK would have been fully knowledgeable about US presidential ambitions and incentives is somewhat moot. A similar question could be asked about former Iraqi presidency, and no doubt this will be asked both here and at the Inquiry. As we now know, Iraq had been essentially disarmed of its proscribed weaponry long before the moves towards military action, conducted in Tony Blair’s own words to “…disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction”.

    Why a greater realisation of the effectiveness of the earlier work of UNSCOM was not recognized is one of the greater mysteries of this entire affair. There is such a wide disparity between what was being claimed by the US/UK with regard to the intent of Iraq and what was the reality on the ground inside Iraq that it seriously strains the credibility of the case that was made for the action that was taken in haste to preclude what was alleged to have been a “serious” and “current” threat.

    Obviously the SCUD missile issue was only one of many claims made against Iraq, but all of the others can now be explained away (generally in the favour of Iraq) in a fairly similar way. With regards to the likelihood of Iraqi (1991) CW use, you write: “The important point from a policy perspective is that the consensus in Washington and Whitehall is that they were not used.” There are probably very good reasons why this position was adopted. In any final analysis of this particular issue it is not difficult to understand why US Central Command would not have been willing (at that time) to admit to the fact that chemical detections had occurred during the 1991 Gulf conflict. The effect of any public acknowledgement of these actions would have vastly exacerbated the seriousness of the overall wartime situation, effectively raising the political stakes to perhaps an intolerable level, thereafter raising the spectre of the possibility of strategic (or more likely) tactical nuclear strikes being used as retaliatory measures. Conversely, non-use of such weaponry in such circumstances could possibly come to be seen by some as a demonstrable failure of the Western nuclear deterrent.

    With respect to former PM Margaret Thatcher you also write: “When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Thatcher was in step with President George H W Bush in offering support when he decided to lead a military coalition of countries to eject Saddam.” and: “Although the Iron Lady had been deposed and John Major was prime minister by the time hostilities started, Britain played the main supporting role to the US in the military campaign of 1991.” One can only wonder about the effect that Mrs Thatcher would have had on the actions of George Bush ’41 had she still been in office and had it been revealed that Saddam Hussein had actually called the bluff of all who opposed him, with the intention of breaking the will of the combined Coalition who had rallied together in support of Kuwait.

    There is now evidence to demonstrate that Iraq did not want to fully disclose every detail of its WMD actions during the 1980-88 Iran/Iraq war. This usage was broadly dividable into three categories, that used during the ‘Anfal’ operation against the Kurdish population of Iraq, that used defensively in Southern Iraq to regain territory lost to Iran, and that used offensively into/on Iranian territory. Of particular importance was the controversial ‘Air Force Document’ which detailed the use of 13,000 chemical bombs used against Iran. Whilst discussing non-conventional weaponry used by Iraq during that period, Iraq’s former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told the Iraq Survey Group that:

    “In most cases Saddam listened and agreed with me when I would tell him that we must be forthcoming with the UN.”

    “The Higher Committee did not want to release the document to the UN because the delivery times and methods contained in the document were thought to be sensitive.”

    “We did not have to hand over the document because it was a matter of our national security.”

    A second line of evidence to support this acknowledged policy comes from a document which was released as part of the Fort Leavenworth ‘document dump’ of papers recovered by the Iraq Survey Group in Iraq following the invasion, and released for public scrutiny during the Spring of 2006. (This policy of releasing documents was shortly afterwards reversed because of the claimed fear of WMD proliferation, and all were subsequently removed from the Fort Leavenworth website):

    Reference: ISGQ-2003-M0004666_TRANS.doc (Part only)

    Male 1 (possibly believed to be Saddam Hussein himself (?))

    Let me talk in details, the 17 Tons you didn’t answer him a satisfactory answer. Which is related to the previous programs, this doesn’t mean that these 17 Tons are maybe hidden! I don’t think so. Then what is preventing you and comrade Tariq before you came, he said we for sure produced Biological, means Biological weapons. So he is really looking in the previous programs. I am telling you, that not all your answers to Ekeus about the Chemical are correct and precise. You gave him numbers to satisfy him, and it seems until now he is satisfied with the total. But at the same time I know that America is looking to prove our use of chemicals against Iran! And we in fact did use Chemical on the Iranians. And we didn’t answer them that we used Chemical on the Iranians. So in all your programs that you present in Chemical there still will be a gap, and whenever he wants to raise it he can raise it with what’s called Leveling, the one you talked about. Between the imported data and the weapons produced and the destroyed, there is going to be a gap a number of weapons used in Iran you guys didn’t cover.

    The only remaining question I have concerns whether or not Iraq would have used an identical policy for concealing illicit WMD (actually more accurately WMC – weapons of mass casualty) use during the 1991 Gulf War. You state in your first reply to me here that: “I doubt they (the US and UK) could have kept it secret for over a decade considering the strength of the veterans campaigns and the widespread sympathy for them within and beyond government and the services.” I can only state that having been present at Dhahran at the time in question I do not believe that Iraq was completely innocent of the charge which I have suggested here at some quite considerable length. With only the Butler and Hutton reports being frequently referred to with respect to a fuller UK understanding about the Iraqi non-conventional weapon threat, Lord Lloyd’s independent public inquiry investigating Gulf War Illnesses is easily overlooked despite the fact that the final report states:

    “If some of these alarms were genuine the atmospheric contamination could have arisen from the bombardment of Iraqi storage bunkers or production plants. Possibly a small contribution was made by the few SCUD missile attacks reported in the early days of the war. The Inquiry heard evidence about these from several witnesses.”

    One other closely related point which I feel must be made here, again from personal experience involving extensive discussions with leading veterans’ advocates, is that the (UK) fight for proper compensation for suffering ex-service personnel was largely dependent on establishing negligence of the part of the MoD. In this regard, a focus on the issues of the prophylactic measures which were employed, and on the undoubted toxicity of depleted uranium were seen to be ways forwards. All other issues were generally seen in a far more peripheral light, and were not pursued with any great vigour.

    Last point. Had Bill Clinton or John Major (or Tony Blair from 1997 onwards) suddenly admitted that CW could well have been a route cause of some aspects of Gulf War Syndrome/Illnesses then they would have had to contradict a major part of that which had already been publicly denied. The 1991 Gulf War was portrayed to be a near-complete victory for the Western powers, and went a long way towards healing the deep national US wound caused by the Vietnam War. In any case, this whole issue may well have been used as a deeply political undercurrent against Iraq, insofar as the Iraqi leadership may have felt the threat of considerable legal and financial repercussions for the entirety of the blame for the illnesses and conditions which arose from the act of undertaking International military service in the Persian Gulf region at the start of the last decade of the 20th Century. Indeed Iraq did not have to spend time imagining this scenario, because it had already been set out within the full text of UNSC Resolution 687.


  7. Brian Jones

    on November 16, 2009 at 5:13 pm -

    andrewsimon –

    I appreciate all the work you have put in but, having read parts 4 and 5 of your comments, my view on whether or not wmd was used by Iraq against coalition forces in 1991 remains as I outlined it in the second paragraph of my comment above.

    You will be aware that in the UK NBC defence protocols the indications given by alarms and automatic detection and monitoring equipment are subject to confirmation by secondary means -usually the direct analysis of collected samples. This is to eliminate the possibility of false alarms and confirm the exact nature and degree of the threat. As far as I am aware no such confirmation was made.

    Obviously your hypothesis about a conspiracy of silence over actual use cannot be disproven, but my direct post war experience of the investigations and discussions in both London and Washington lead me to believe that UK and US policy developed in the context of a belief that Iraq did not use its chemical or biological weapons against coalition forces.

    I doubt that this is something that the inquiry would or should pursue but, if you have not done so already, perhaps you should make the case to the inquiry that this is something it should look at.

  8. andrewsimon

    on November 18, 2009 at 11:19 am -

    Dr Jones –

    Thank you for your second reply, which I completely accept as being honest and heartfelt. Plainly we disagree with regards to our own individual assessments of the nature of these events. I was indeed broadly aware of the procedures for confirming NBC detections, and was informed by Richard Turnbull that all the SCUD wreckage at Dhahran was collected by American individuals who had orders to do so but whose unit could not be readily discerned.

    I am though just a little bit disappointed that your reply to me here does not consider the Iraqi angle, insofar as I have suggested that these events may have had a significant effect on their policies regarding total disclosure of the final disposition of every last item (and aspect) of this particular weapons system. As I have pointed out, questions remained current about these matters right up to the 2003 action to remove Iraq’s WMD potential, and in so doing, Saddam himself from power.

    I do wonder, given the near-total control of events by CENTCOM authorities during Operation Desert Storm, whether incidents like this may have been downplayed for US political reasons, and whether senior UK figures would have been kept completely fully ‘in the loop’ had they occurred. My own attempts to access contemporary UK records via FOI requests have been thwarted, as these documents are claimed to have been misplaced and are not currently capable of be located. I think we could probably agree that there is the possibility that certain wartime episodes may indeed remain secret for some considerable time after they occur, and that the 30 year rule was the normal standard for this at the time of the 1991 Gulf conflict.

    I also question why the remit of the Inquiry was set to only fully examine events post-2001, when much of the WMD-related history of the fractious Iraqi-US-UK relationship occurred before then. It does appear that leading figures from within the Conservative party had some input into this decision, and this then begs the question as to whether certain skeletons remained in their own political closet dating back to their time in power, which plainly encompassed Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

    It would be interesting to learn slightly more about your post-war experience of the investigations and discussions in both the UK and the US which led you to believe that policy developed in the context of a belief that Iraq did not use its chemical or biological weapons in 1991. For example, was the UK aware that the US NBC records of the time had been ‘inadvertently’ lost, and did those who took part in these discussions consider the possibility that Iraq was purposely fudging its accounting to disguise what would have been internationally illegal weapons usage?

    As you suggest, I have already sent a submission to Sir John’s committee. I understand that you may have seen an earlier version of this work. As to whether this is a significant topic for further examination, I suppose that it can only fit into the category of background historical detail. It may well be that other matters are seen to be more worthy of closer inspection, and that dotting every I and crossing every T of the Iraqi WMD file is not seen to be necessary at this time, given that the overall finding is already that none remained militarily or industrially extant in Iraq.

  9. Brian Jones

    on November 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm -

    andrewsimon –
    I agree that we must agree to disagree on this issue. I am inclined to believe the Iraq Survey Group interpretation on this, i.e. I think Iraq’s inclination to be less than open on WMD until forced to do so was more likely to have been based on a desire
    a)to preserve as much potential for regeneration of capability down the line, and
    b)to create the impression of an available WMD capability to deter internal dissent and external aggression.
    There were misjudgements made by both sides but most significantly by the time Iraq decided to play it as straight as the fog of war would allow and the regimes best interests dictated, its credibility with UNSCOM was shot.

    I regret that I cannot provide more detail about all of the factors that persuade me to my current position, but I think the single most important one is that I believe the UK had no convincing evidence, or even strong suspicion that Iraq used chemical or biological weapons against the coalition. This would mean that it was not a factor as far as the British decision to go to war was concerned. Of course, I cannot be as certain about the US background, but I suspect the same applies.