Friday 9 December 2016

Intelligence on Iraq WMD was 'flawed but not sexed up'

Ben Farmer

Published 07/07/2016 | 02:30

Weapons inspectors from the UN search a military industrial complex near Fallujah on December 9, 2002 Photo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo
Weapons inspectors from the UN search a military industrial complex near Fallujah on December 9, 2002 Photo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/File Photo

Britain went to war on the basis of flawed intelligence that should have been challenged, but Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell did not "sex up" the notorious dossier used to justify military intervention, John Chilcot found.

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Spy chiefs should have made clear to the prime minister their intelligence had not established "beyond doubt" that Iraq was producing chemical and biological weapons.

In a damning analysis of how intelligence was handled in advance of the war, Mr Chilcot said it was not strong enough to back claims made about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Mistakes in presenting and handling the intelligence may now have permanently damaged the public's trust in its spy agencies, he said.

Mr Chilcot's report found that "judgments about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq's WMD were presented with a certainty that was not justified". Britain's Iraq policy was "made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments", the report found.

Mr Chilcot said the intelligence reports "were not challenged, and they should have been". But the inquiry found Downing Street had not improperly influenced a September 2002 dossier of intelligence published to make the case for war the following year. The inquiry found "no evidence that intelligence was improperly included in the dossier or that No 10 improperly influenced the text".

Before the 2003 invasion, Mr Blair told the Commons he had "extensive, detailed and authoritative" intelligence showing Saddam had biological and chemical weapons and was trying to get nuclear weapons.

Mr Chilcot found the evidence, which formed what became known as "the dodgy dossier" published at the same time, "was presented with a certainty that was not justified".

Ingrained

Three days before the invasion of Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, was still telling Mr Blair that "Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, the means to deliver them and the capacity to produce them", the report found.

In the years before the military intervention, there was an "ingrained belief" among British policymakers that the Iraqi regime had retained chemical and biological warfare capabilities and was trying to build nuclear weapons. A belief that Saddam was lying about and concealing his arsenal had underpinned British policy towards Iraq since the Gulf War in 1991. But Britain failed to consider whether Saddam had changed his policy to stave off the possibility of an American invasion. A year after the invasion, US weapons inspectors finally concluded that the Iraq regime had not had WMD when Saddam was toppled.

The public perception that the September 2002 dossier "overstated the firmness of the evidence" has produced a "damaging legacy which may make it more difficult to secure support for Government policy, including military action, where the evidence depends on inferential judgments drawn from intelligence".

Mr Blair said: "The 'intelligence' assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong."

David Cameron said it would be wrong to conclude in the wake of the inquiry that "we cannot rely on the judgments of our brilliant and hard-working intelligence agencies".

Telegraph.co.uk

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