By the time United Nations inspectors left on 17 March 2003, the IAEA had not found any evidence or plausible indication of the revival of Iraq’s nuclear programme.
As we have described above, there was throughout this period a substantial volume of intelligence reports on Iraqi deception and concealment activities, coupled with - as UNMOVIC reported - a lack of active co-operation with inspectors. There were also the UNMOVIC discoveries listed above. Even so, we are surprised that neither policy-makers nor the intelligence community, as the generally negative results of UNMOVIC inspections became increasingly apparent, conducted a formal re-evaluation of the quality of the intelligence and hence of the assessments made on it. We have noted in departmental papers expressions of concern about the impact on public and international opinion of the lack of strong evidence of Iraqi violation of its disarmament obligations. But those involved appear to have operated on the presumption that the intelligence was right, and that it was because of the combination of Iraqi concealment and deception activities and perceived UNMOVIC weaknesses that such evidence was not found.
We also noted the limited time given to evaluation of the Iraqi declaration of 7 December. Considerable effort was made by DIS staff immediately on its receipt to sift and analyse its contents. Their initial findings were reported by the Assessments Staff on 13December. Further DIS work on the declaration was captured in a JIC paper on 18 December, properly described as “An Initial Assessment of Iraq’s WMD Declaration”. Thereafter, despite its importance to the determination of whether Iraq was in further material breach of its disarmament obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 144114, the JIC made no further assessment.
The JIC’s attitude will have been shaped by intelligence received in late-November that Iraq’s declaration would omit references to its prohibited programmes and more generally would seek to overload the United Nations with information. Predictions on the extreme length15 and nature of the declaration were subsequently borne out. Even so, we find it odd that after the ‘Initial Assessment’ of 18 December, the JIC produced no further assessment.
We consider in the next Section those legal issues surrounding the decision to take military action to enforce Iraqi disarmament that fall within our terms of reference. From our Review, we believe that those involved will, in taking that decision, have had the following evidence derived from intelligence reports and assessments made by the UK intelligence community16:
Judgements which became increasingly firm during summer 2002 about the extent of Iraq’s prohibited programmes, drawing in particular on new intelligence on Iraqi biological and chemical weapons programmes received from 2000 onwards.
14 15 16
Operative Paragraph 4. The eventual document was almost 12,000 pages long. They will, of course, also have taken into account the findings of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, and the conclusions of the United Nations Security Council.