Did the government’s statements about Iraq’s alleged wmd accurately reflect intelligence reports and assessments?

It remains my view that the internal government assessment of Iraq’s capabilities was intentionally and substantially exaggerated in public government documents during 2002 and 2003. Statement to the Inquiry of Carne Ross, former diplomat

It is possible to compare statements from Tony Blair and other ministers dating from early 2002 against the advice that they were receiving at the time. It is clear that ministers’ statements went beyond the intelligence that they were citing. The Inquiry will need to consider whether this was deliberate, taking into account evidence that ministers were seeking to make a case for war.

March/April 2002

The Cabinet Office Iraq options paper of 8 March 2002 advised that “Iraq continues to develop WMD, although our intelligence is poor. Saddam has used WMD in the past and could do so again if his regime were threatened, though there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD.” The paper also stated that current intelligence was insufficiently robust to provide incontrovertible proof of large-scale wmd activity.

On 11 March Tony Blair told a press conference “Let’s be under no doubt whatever, Saddam Hussein has acquired weapons of mass destruction over a long period of time.” He added: “that there is a threat from Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction that he has acquired is not in doubt at all.”

On 15 March the JIC issued a “status report” on Iraq’s wmd. The Butler Review has said that this was produced “in parallel” to the options paper and it is likely that the drafters of the options paper had consulted their Cabinet Office colleagues in the JIC assessment staff as what was said in the paper was entirely compatible with the JIC assessment. The assessment described intelligence as “sporadic and patchy” but stated that “it is clear that Iraq continues to pursue a policy of acquiring WMD and their delivery means”.

On 3 April Blair told NBC news “We know that he [Saddam] has stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons …”

The September 2002 dossier

It is possible to compare most of the claims in the Iraq dossier with the 2002 JIC assessments that were said to be the basis for it. In some cases, claims in the dossier did not appear in earlier JIC documents, although it is possible to see what subsequent JIC assessments said on the same issue. See the comparison

Why did the September 2002 dossier overstate the case for Iraq’s alleged possession of wmd?

An offensive or defensive threat?

During the drafting of the dossier, material that implied that Iraq would only use wmd if attacked was deliberately removed following a request from Jonathan Powell which spefically warned that it strengthen the case against military action. During the Hutton Inquiry JIC chairman John Scarlett was asked about this. He claimed that he agreed to remove the material because “there was no standing JIC assessment which made it clear whether we were defining Saddam’s threat, if you like, as defensive or CW posture as defensive or offensive.” This was untrue: the Joint Intelligence Committee had for some time made clear that Saddam Hussein was unlikely to use wmd unless his regime was under threat.

Late 2002

In December 2002 Jack Straw told the BBC: “He has got these weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and probably nuclear weapons which he has used in the past against his own people as well as his neighbours and could almost certainly use again in the future.”

Intelligence that Iraq did not have wmd

It has been alleged that two separate high-level Iraqi sources told US and UK intelligence that Iraq did not have wmd. At no point did the UK government tell the public that it had received such information. Read more

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